WASHINGTON — The Pentagon downed an unidentified object over Alaska on Friday at the order of President Biden, according to U.S. officials.
John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed the shoot down at a news conference on Friday.
The U.S. official said it was not confirmed if the object was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.
Mr. Biden ordered the unidentified object downed “out of an abundance of caution,” Mr. Kirby said.
A U.S. official said there were “no affirmative indications of military threat” to people on the ground from the object. Officials said they could not confirm whether there was any surveillance equipment on the object that was shot down.
The action comes less than a week after a U.S. fighter jet shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had traversed the United States, according to three American officials.
The latest breach, officials said, took place Thursday night, over Alaska. One official described it as a “fast-moving” situation that was still developing. It is not clear if the object was from an adversarial power, or a commercial or research operation that has gone astray, the official said.
The breach of American airspace on Thursday was relatively short, according to officials, which is one reason officials could not immediately identify what type of object was involved.
The transit of the Chinese spy balloon last week, which ended with it being shot down Saturday off the South Carolina coast by a F-22 fighter jet, transfixed the American public. The White House has been criticized by some Republicans for not immediately shooting the balloon down, but President Biden has said he was acting on the recommendation of military officials, who said to wait until the balloon was over water before destroying it to minimize any risk to people on the ground.
U.S. officials say the spy balloon was part of a fleet directed by the Chinese military that has flown over more than 40 countries on five continents in recent years. The balloons are made by one or more civilian-run companies that officially sell products to the military, officials said, though the Biden administration has not publicly identified the company that made the downed balloon.
U.S. officials say a balloon that was drifting over Latin America last week was also part of the Chinese surveillance program.