Mysterious flying objects over North America make the US Air Force nervous. On social media, there are already oracles about a UFO invasion by extraterrestrials. A high-ranking Air Force general involuntarily fuels the wild speculation. There is much to be said for Chinese espionage with balloons. But China is now reporting puzzling sightings of its own.
The news is somewhat spectacular: the US military shot down an unidentified flying object on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All three had entered US and Canadian airspace, one over Alaska, one over Canada's Yukon, the last in skies over Michigan. The Pentagon confirmed the shootings, but could not provide any conclusive information about the origin and purpose of the unknown flying objects.
When asked by a reporter whether the US Department of Defense could rule out that extraterrestrials were behind the ominous missiles, the commander of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), Glen VanHerck, answered surprisingly ambiguous: "I'll leave it to the intelligence services and counterintelligence to find out. I haven't ruled anything out at this point." His job is to defend the country. When asked if more kills were to be expected, he said: "Anything approaching North America, if it's unknown, I will identify - and assess whether it poses a threat. If it's a threat, I shoot it off."
The high-ranking general's statements have only fueled speculation about extraterrestrial UFOs. Since then, speculation has been rampant in US social media - to the amusement of Elon Musk, who immediately tweeted: "Don't worry, these are just a few of my 'alien' friends dropping by".
The "New York Times" is irritated and headlines: "What's going on up there? Theories, but no answers". The portal Politico diagnoses: The UFO fever has Washington under control. Even the highly reputable news agency Reuters felt compelled to place General VanHerck's statements in a broader context of military UFO research.
As Reuters reports: "The incidents come as the Pentagon has launched a new push to investigate military UFO sightings, referred to in official government parlance as 'unidentified aerial phenomena,' or UAPs. Government efforts Investigating anomalous, unidentified objects -- whether in space, in the sky, or even underwater -- have resulted in hundreds of documented reports that are currently under investigation, according to senior military officials."
On Monday, the White House attempted to calm tempers, stating, "There is no evidence of aliens or extraterrestrial activity in these recent launches. Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said, "I don't think the American public is concerned about aliens must be facing these missiles. Point."
John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council, pointed out that since the recent incursion by the Chinese spy balloon, the military has been "taking a closer look at the airspace, including improving our radar capabilities." Deputy Secretary of Defense Melissa Dalton reinforced the statement, saying that following the discovery of the Chinese spy balloon, radar settings were changed to look for smaller and slower objects.
The majority of Pentagon experts believe that the newly shot down flying objects are probably spy balloons or zeppelins - whoever they are. Glen VanHerck said they were "very, very small objects" moving very slowly, about the speed of the wind.
According to the US government, the Chinese balloon, which was the first to be shot down, had wiretapping equipment on board and was "clearly used for intelligence surveillance". Beijing denies this account and speaks of a research balloon that has gone off course. The shooting was an "overreaction".
The US accuses China of operating a large international surveillance program with an entire armada of balloons of this type, with which Beijing has targeted more than 40 countries on five continents. China has vehemently denied the allegations and is now accusing the United States of having flown "more than ten" stratospheric balloons "illegally" into Chinese airspace since last year "without obtaining the approval of the relevant Chinese authorities".
At the weekend, China also claimed to have discovered a "mysterious flying object" over the People's Republic. The state-affiliated daily Global Times reported that China is preparing to shoot down an unknown flying object. Citing a local shipping authority, it said the mysterious object was spotted off the waters of the city of Rizhao in Shandong province on Sunday.
But the Chinese UFO sighting sounds more like a copy reaction to the US debate, with which the regime wants to distract from its own espionage flights. "Perhaps an alien-UFO debate would come in handy for Beijing to distract from its own espionage program," says a high-ranking NATO diplomat. He points out that balloons have been part of the Chinese espionage strategy for years.
The "Financial Times" reports that Chinese balloons fly "very regularly" into Taiwanese airspace. "The youngest just a few weeks ago." In Taiwan, therefore, very few people believe in UFOs, but they do believe in the threat posed by China.