U.S. agencies are still investigating the origins of the three mysterious objects that U.S. fighter jets shot down between Friday and Sunday on the orders of Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Debris recovery efforts are underway at the sites in Alaska, the Yukon Territory in Canada and the Canadian side of Lake Huron, Mr. Kirby said.
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The three objects did not pose a danger to people on the ground, were not sending out communications signals, did not have people inside and did not have maneuvering or propulsion capabilities, he said. They flew at altitudes of between 20,000 feet and 40,000 feet, much lower than the Chinese spy balloon, and they posed a potential risk to civilian air traffic, Mr. Kirby added.
The objects appeared to be pushed by winds, which carried them from west to east, he said.
The object shot down over Lake Huron after it had entered Michigan had an octagonal structure with strings hanging off but had no visible payload, U.S. officials said. They have been careful not to call any of the recent three objects “balloons.”
The Biden administration said last week that China had sent surveillance balloons over more than 40 nations on five continents, violating their sovereignty.
A suspected high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon flew near sensitive U.S. military installations in the Middle East last fall, but it remained far enough offshore that American officials did not deem it a threat and only monitored it as it transited the region, a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details, said on Monday.
The balloon originated in or near China and traveled westward toward the Middle East — the opposite direction of prevailing winds and the route taken by the spy balloon that was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean — suggesting that the machine had its own source of propulsion, the official said.
Military officials in Asia tracked the balloon until it moved west into Middle Eastern air space, where they handed off monitoring duties to military colleagues there, the official said.