One possibility the US has been able to rule out is any link to extraterrestrial activity, officials said Monday.

WASHINGTON — The White House was on the defensive Monday shooting down three unidentified objects for so many days, even though he acknowledged that officials had no indication that the facilities were intended to be monitored in the same way as high altitude Chinese balloon which crossed US airspace earlier this month.

The three objects, including one that was shot down over Lake Huron on Sunday, were flying at such a low altitude that they posed a danger to civilian air traffic, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said. While the Biden administration has no evidence yet that they were equipped for espionage purposes — or even owned by China — officials have not ruled it out, he said.

“These were decisions based purely and simply on what was in the best interest of the American people,” Kirby said.

A weekly sequence of objects, starting with the giant white ball first spotted over the US sky in late January, embarrassed American officials and aroused curiosity around the world. Although the three latest objects differed in size, maneuverability and other characteristics from the surveillance balloon shot down on Feb. 4 off the Carolina coast, officials ordered each to be removed from the sky – actions that Pentagon officials say are unprecedented in peacetime.

“Because we couldn’t determine exactly what these recent objects were, we proceeded with an abundance of caution,” Kirby said.

One possibility the US has been able to rule out, it said Monday, is any link to extraterrestrial activity.

Other Western countries are also trying to assess the wave of incidents. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said this on Monday that the government would do “everything in its power” to protect the country as the UK announced a security review. And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “there is some pattern” to the balloon and three other objects, although the US did not repeat that statement.

Kirby’s remarks from the White House podium came hours after China said more than 10 US high-altitude balloons had flown through its airspace over the past year without its permission. US officials strongly denied the claim, with Kirby saying on Monday: “We are not flying balloons over China.”

The Chinese accusation came later The US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon which crossed from Alaska to South Carolina within days, sparking a new crisis in bilateral relations that have sunk to their lowest level in decades and forcing Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to cancel a planned visit to China.

The last of the three objects was shot down Sunday over Lake Huron after being spotted a day earlier over Montana.

On Friday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint US-Canadian organization known as NORAD that provides joint protection of the airspace over the two countries, detected and shot down the object near the sparsely populated Deadhorse, Alaska.

Later in the evening, NORAD detected a second object flying at a high altitude over Alaska, US officials said. It entered Canadian airspace on Saturday and was over the Yukon, a remote territory, when Trudeau ordered it shot down.

In both of these incidents, the objects were flying at an altitude of approximately 40,000 feet. The object was flying at an altitude of about 20,000 feet on Sunday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters in Brussels, where he was scheduled to attend a meeting of NATO defense ministers this week.

Austin said weather has hampered recovery efforts in Alaska, while a facility in Canada has been shut down in a very remote area, also hampering efforts. In Alaska, where the object landed on sea ice, wind chill and safety concerns “dictate the timeline for recovery,” he said.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Colin Long in Washington and Tara Kopp in Brussels contributed to this report.

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