National Security Council spokesman John Kirby had briefed reporters on Friday that President Joe Biden was first made aware of the object's location overnight, and he ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down as soon as it passed over U.S. territorial waters. Kirby added that military personnel are conducting a salvage operation due to the waters being frozen.
"I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours," Kirby said during the briefing. "The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. Out of an abundance of caution at the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object, and they did it when it came in inside our territorial waters."
In early February, the U.S. had shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had traveled across the U.S. for several days before it was taken down by a U.S. aircraft. Kirby could not say for sure if the second flying object belonged to China.
"I have no idea," he stated flatly. "We don't know what entity owns this object. We just don't know."
During Biden's State of the Union address on Feb. 7, the president did not specifically address the Chinese spy balloon. However, he vowed to defend against any incursions of U.S. territory.
"Make no mistake about it, as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country," Biden said.