Washington and Ottawa were working on Sunday to recover the debris of three flying objects shot down on their territory in a week, a series of mysterious intrusions which put the authorities on alert and caused the brief closure of airspace in the United States.
• Read also: Flying object shot down: Justin Trudeau en route to the Yukon
• Read also: “National defense” in the United States: the airspace above Lake Michigan has reopened
• Read also: “Spy” balloon, flying objects: what we know about intrusions over North America
In the evening, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to travel to the Yukon province in northwestern Canada, where the latest of these objects was shot down on Saturday.
In a sign that authorities are on the alert, airspace over part of Lake Michigan in the northern United States was temporarily closed on Sunday for “national defense” reasons, according to the US civil aviation regulator (FAA).
“These restrictions have been put in place to ensure the safety of air traffic in the area during Norad operations,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Norad said in a statement.
“This restriction has been lifted,” he said.
The day before, a similar measure had been taken in Montana. A fighter plane, dispatched to investigate a “radar anomaly”, had not identified a “flying object” according to the army.
On Sunday, however, Montana elected official Matt Rosendale said he was in “constant contact” with the military, and “they just told me that they are sure there is an object and that it was not not an anomaly,” he tweeted.
The United States believes that the first object officially detected, a balloon, was controlled by the Chinese military and was part of a fleet sent by Beijing over more than 40 countries on five continents, for the purpose of espionage .
The Chinese government assures that it was a civilian aircraft used for research purposes, mainly meteorological.
Besides the Chinese balloon, two flying objects were shot down by US forces, one over Alaska, the other over Canada.
On Sunday, Washington and Ottawa were still busy collecting the remains of the devices.
For the one shot over Alaska, the debris fell on frozen waters, and “Arctic weather conditions, including cold, snow and limited daylight, are a factor” affecting the search, said the army.
These events have added to the tension between China and the United States, and a visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been postponed.
Republican elected official Michael McCaul, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of the American Congress, accused China on Sunday of an “act of belligerence” in connection with the balloon shot down on February 4 by the American army.
The sending of this object “was done provocatively to gather intelligence and collect elements on our three major nuclear sites,” he said on CBS.
Republicans have strongly criticized Democratic President Joe Biden for letting the balloon hover over the country for days before shooting it down.
The Pentagon explains that it “monitored and evaluated continuously”, which allowed it to learn “more about the capabilities and techniques” of China’s espionage.
Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer defended Biden’s handling of the case, telling the ABC on Sunday that an analysis of the debris would be “a big blow to the United States.”
The president, however, faces calls for more transparency from both parties.
“I have real concerns about why the administration isn’t communicating more,” Democrat Jim Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC.
In a quip on Twitter, businessman Elon Musk seemed to allude to flying objects.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a few of my friends that are passing…” he wrote, accompanying his sentence with emoticons of an alien and a flying saucer.
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