The White House on Tuesday said it hasn’t seen any evidence that the three objects shot down by the U.S. military were part of China’s spy program and they might turn out to be harmless commercial or research devices that posed no threat.
“We haven’t seen any indication or anything that points specifically to the idea that these three objects were part of the [People’s Republic of China’s] spy balloon program or that they were definitively involved in external intelligence collection efforts,” national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
While Mr. Kirby assured reporters that there is no indication the devices were part of an intelligence operation or any other country, he also cautioned that officials have not collected the debris from the three objects. It’s possible officials could reach a different conclusion once the debris is analyzed.
Mr. Kirby said right now the “leading explanation” is that the three objects were balloons tied to a private company or research institution and were not a threat. He said no entity or individual came forward to claim them.
Officials have ruled out that the objects came from the U.S. government, Mr. Kirby said.
Mr. Kirby said getting access to the devices has been difficult. The object that was shot down over Lake Huron, Michigan, landed in deep, frigid waters. The other devices were shot down in remote locations with tough weather conditions.
“It could be some time before we locate the recovered debris,” he said.
When asked if there is a chance the debris may never be recovered, Mr. Kirby said officials were doing “the best we can” to locate the rubble and develop a plan to recover it.
Mr. Kirby‘s comments come as Pentagon and administration officials arrived at the Capitol Tuesday to brief the Senate on the bizarre incidents of floating objects shot down by the U.S. military.
The briefing is part of the administration’s efforts to counter criticism from Republicans and some Democrats that it hasn’t been transparent about the incidents.
President Biden has yet to publicly speak about the situation, and Mr. Kirby offered no indication of when the president would talk about the flying objects.
“I have nothing to speak to with respect to the president’s public appearances with respect to this,” Mr. Kirby said.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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