China Testing Our Borders, Or Our Response Time?

New fears for national security surge and threaten a political storm after US fighter jets shoot down 3 unidentified aerial objects over the North American continent.

The flurry of attacks on the unknown crafts came a week after the highly public tracking and ultimate downing of a Chinese balloon suspected of carrying out surveillance. Now, the thin details trickling out of the Pentagon and Capitol Hill are making an already highly unusual international episode even more bizarre and confusing.

No one – not the White House, the Pentagon, or the government of Canada, whose airspace has also been infringed – seems able to say exactly what is going on with these latest downed crafts. This raises questions for top military brass and US spy agencies as well as for the potential safety of civilian aviation. And it creates an information vacuum that Republicans are again using to question Biden’s leadership.

The intrigue is also unfolding against a tense global situation, with already difficult relations with rising superpower China becoming ever more hostile and with the US leading the West in an effective proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.

“The military needs to have a plan to not only determine what’s out there but (to) determine the dangers that go with it,” Tester said.

US fighters blasted three objects out of the skies since Friday following the shooting down of the Chinese balloon:

  • In the latest event, a high-altitude object was shot down on Sunday afternoon by an F-16 over Lake Huron, which lies between Michigan and Ontario. The Pentagon said the object was not considered a military threat but a flight hazard. But it did connect the craft to a radar signal picked up earlier over Montana, the home to US intercontinental missile silos and other sensitive sites.
  • On Saturday, a US F-22 warplane operating on the joint orders of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Biden fired a missile that took down an object flying at 40,000 feet over central Yukon in the far north of Canada. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand described a “cylindrical object” smaller than the Chinese balloon.
  • On Friday, an F-22 shot down another unidentified craft over Alaskan airspace. US pilots were able to get up around the object before it was shot down and reported that it didn’t appear to be carrying surveillance equipment.


Even at the height of last century’s Cold War, when US jets often headed off Soviet aircraft testing North American and European defenses, pilots weren’t typically sent off to shoot down unidentified objects over the US and Canada. It’s not normal for Americans to settle down for the Super Bowl with their president firing off orders to blast unknown objects out of the North American sky.

So the last few days’ events provoke serious national security and political questions that stretch far beyond the often narrow political battle in Washington, and that can only be assessed once more details are understood.

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