The US shot down an unidentified object that was flying over Canada on Saturday, in the second incident in two days that comes one week after the Pentagon took down a Chinese spy balloon off the US coast.
Canadian 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 taken out over the Yukon.
An American F-22 fighter jet shot down the 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 on Friday evening. It added that the fighters continued to monitor 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 shoot 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. The two incidents come as Washington and Ottawa remain on high alert following the recent one-week 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 insists was a civilian craft conducting meteorological research.
The Biden administration on Friday put six Chinese groups with alleged connections to China’s spy balloon programme on the “entity list”, which effectively bars American firm from providing them with US technology.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident on Saturday.
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 that was 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 where the Chinese balloon landed last Saturday after it was hit by a Sidewinder missile. It said the FBI was taking custody of the debris that is being recovered from the downed balloon 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 incursion and Beijing’s refusal to admit that it was a spy vessel. The Pentagon has subsequently revealed that China flew three balloons over parts of the US during the Trump administration and one balloon through US airspace early in the Biden administration.
Canadian defence minister Anita Anand said she had discussed the situation with her US counterpart, Lloyd Austin.
“I discussed this with @SecDef Austin and reaffirmed that we’ll always defend our sovereignty together,” Anand wrote on Twitter.
But 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.