US military shoots down another 'high-altitude object' over Alaska, less than a week after Chinese spy balloon incident

The White House announced Friday that President Joe Biden ordered the military to down what it described as a "high-altitude object" hovering over Alaska earlier in the day.

"The Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours," National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told reporters when asked about rumors of another suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.

The high-altitude object, Kirby said, was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and "posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight."

He continued, "Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object, and they did. And it came inside our territorial waters -- and those waters right now are frozen -- but inside territorial airspace and over territorial waters. Fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command took down the object within last hour."

It's the second time in a little less than a week that US fighter jets have shot down an object flying over American airspace. The Biden administration has faced questions over its handling of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated across the nation last week before being shot down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Carolinas on Saturday/

While the president has stood by how he and his administration handled that balloon, he has faced criticism from Republicans for allowing the suspected spy balloon to float over much of the country before shooting it down.

The new object, Kirby added, was taken down with US Northern Command fighter aircraft "near the Canadian border" on water that is frozen in the Arctic Ocean.

"The general area would be just off the very, very northeastern part of Alaska near the Canadian border," Kirby said of the location.

The object first came to the attention of the US government "last evening." Kirby told reporters that the US assessed the "object" to be unmanned before it was eventually shot down.

"We were able to get some fighter aircrafts up and around it before the order to shoot it down, and the pilots assessment was this was not manned," Kirby said.

Kirby also offered some nomenclature guidance on the object, which the US is not referring to as a balloon and has yet to attribute to China or any other entity.

"We're calling this an object because that's the best description we have right now. We don't know who owns it -- whether it's state-owned or corporate-owned or privately owned, we just don't know," Kirby said.

He added: "We don't have any information that would confirm a stated purpose for this object. We do expect to be able to recover the debris since it fell not only within our territorial space, but on what we what believe is frozen water. So a recovery effort will be made and we're hopeful that it will be successful and then we can learn a little bit more about it."

The object was "much, much smaller" than the Chinese suspected spy balloon, Kirby said, comparing it to "roughly the size of a small car." The balloon downed last Saturday was described by US officials as approximately the size of three buses.

Biden "absolutely was involved in this decision" and ordered it at the recommendation of Pentagon leaders, Kirby said.