(Updated with Biden statement) Less than a week after U.S. jets shot down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic, President Joe Biden this morning ordered the military to destroy a self-described “high-altitude object” over Alaska.
Asked about the incident while awaiting the arrival of the President of Brazil to the White House, POTUS opted for rare brevity and called it a “success.”
“President Biden ordered the military to down the object. And they did … within the last hour,” NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said earlier Friday in the White House press room as he announced the mission. “The President will always act in the best interests of the American people and international security,” Kirby added of the order, that was given at 1:45 PM ET.
“I think we are going to try to learn more,” the official added in remarks that were covered live on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in what was a slightly delayed regularly scheduled briefing.
“I can tell you it was an object, it was at 40,000 feet and the predominant concern by the President was the safety of flight issue at that altitude,” Kirby went on to say of the shooting, which overtook all news of Biden’s just revealed trip to Poland later this month near the first year anniversary of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The Pentagon is in the process of attempting recovery in the frozen US territorial waters off Alaska, the NSC spokesman stated of the now downed object.
With drama right out of the Top Gun franchise, fighter aircraft flew up next to the object last night and then earlier today and, according to Kirby, “determined it was not manned.” The second approach by U.S. jets was when the object was shot down on Biden’s command.
“I have no idea,” Kirby admitted when asked where the object came from and was it state sponsored. The U.S. first became aware of the object late Thursday, Kirby noted, and added he was “not classifying it as a balloon now.”
Noting the “reasonable threat” to civilian flight that the object presented over America’s northernmost state, Kirby went on to tell harried reporters that the object shot down today lacked the maneuverability capability of the Chinese balloon that was destroyed on February 4 on live TV.
Causing a diplomatic row with Beijing, a media frenzy, and the cancellation of Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s scheduled visit to the PRC, the Chinese balloon was at an altitude of 65,000 feet and was on a flight path that “took it over sensitive military sites,” as camera friendly Kirby said Friday.
The Pentagon is set to further brief on today’s shooting near the northern side of Alaska near the border with Canada. Concurrently, the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, is said to be analyzing the recovered remnants of the Chinese spy balloon for data and more intel.
Currently on a high of his own after a successful State of the Union address earlier this week, Biden was heavily criticized by Republicans after the Chinese balloon was first sighted by South Dakota residents last week. The administration said that POTUS wanted the balloon shot down right away, but military officials urged caution and safety concerns to let the spy object move over water. Clearly that was not part of the advice President Biden received today.
“As I said earlier, the President takes his obligations to protect our national security interests, and the safety and security of the American people as paramount,” Kirby said during the end of today’s White House briefing. “And he’s always going to decide and act in a way that is commensurate with that duty, that’s the real takeaway here.”
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.