The US shot down an unidentified object that was flying over Canada on Saturday, the second such incident in two days that came a week after the Pentagon took down a Chinese spy balloon off the US coast.
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday afternoon said he had ordered the shooting down of “an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace” and that the target was targeted over the Yukon.
An American F-22 fighter jet shot down the unmanned object as part of an operation conducted by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad), a joint US-Canadian command responsible for defending the continent.
“I spoke with President Biden this afternoon. Canadian Forces will now recover and analyse the wreckage of the object. Thank you to Norad for keeping the watch over North America,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.
The US defence department said two F-22s had monitored the object as it flew over US airspace late Friday evening. It added that the fighters continued to observe the object in conjunction with Canadian aircraft as it flew from Alaska into Canada.
The F-22 shot the object with an AIM 9X missile — the same weapon used to target the Chinese spy balloon last week, according to the Pentagon.
On Friday, the US military shot down a “high-altitude object” that was the size of a car off the coast of Alaska.
Washington and Ottawa remain on high alert following the recent weeklong incursion into US and Canadian air space by a large Chinese spy balloon.
A US F-22 last Saturday shot down the Chinese surveillance balloon, which China has insisted was a civilian craft conducting meteorological research.
The Biden administration on Friday put six Chinese groups with alleged connections to Beijing’s spy balloon programme on the “entity list”, which effectively bars American companies from providing them with US technology.
Norad and US Northern Command said the US military was conducting recovery operations near Deadhorse, Alaska, in conjunction with the FBI and local police to salvage the remains of the object shot down on Friday. In a statement, they said the search and rescue operation was facing Arctic weather conditions.
Northern Command is also continuing a salvage operation off the coast of South Carolina of the downed Chinese balloon. It said the FBI was taking custody of the debris that is being recovered by Navy divers and underwater unmanned vehicles.
The drama of the spy balloon has derailed efforts to stabilise the US-China relationship, which has sunk to its lowest level since the countries normalised diplomatic relations in 1979.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken cancelled a visit to China at the last minute in response to the balloon incursion and Beijing’s refusal to admit that it was a spy vessel.
The Pentagon has subsequently revealed that China had flown three balloons over parts of the US during the Trump administration and one balloon through US airspace previously in the Biden administration.
Anita Anand, Canada’s defence minister, said the latest object was shot down over central Yukon at about 40,000ft. She said it appeared to be similar to the one shot down over the coast of South Carolina but it was smaller in size and “cylindrical” in shape. Anand would not speculate on its origins.
Anand said the mission consisted of US fighter jets that took off from Alaska and Canadian fighter jets that took off from Alberta.
Heino Klinck, a former senior Pentagon official and expert on the People’s Liberation Army, said that if there was a connection with China it would suggest the Chinese military was changing the way it operated.
“If this is all China’s doing, it’s a real manifestation of how their counter-normative behaviour has expanded, not only geographically, but also operationally,” Klinck said.
Additional reporting by James Politi in Washington
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