Chinese officials have admitted to having a second spy balloon spotted over Latin America last week, which they claimed was also blown up as the plane was shot down in US waters.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said on Monday that the balloon over Latin America was an unmanned research aircraft that derailed due to weather. The Wall Street Journal reported..
“The aircraft seriously deviated from its planned route, and accidentally entered the skies over Latin America and the Caribbean,” Mao said, according to the outlet.
He did not specify which areas the balloon was to observe.
Pentagon officials announced the sighting of the balloon in Latin America on Friday, a day after they confirmed that a similar object had been detected over sensitive areas in the western United States.
The American balloon later cut a wide swath across the country before being shot down off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Saturday.
Although U.S. officials say the balloons are part of a covert Chinese surveillance operation, a Chinese spokesman insists the devices are part of a civilian research effort.
After the plane was shot down, Vice Foreign Minister Xi Feng filed a formal complaint with the US Embassy, calling the incident “a US attack on a Chinese civilian drone by military force”.
Referring to President Biden’s November meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said, “What the United States has done is a serious blow and efforts to strengthen China-US relations since the Bali meeting.” And progress has suffered.”
The second spy balloon drew little response from Latin American governments, many of which are keen to strengthen their trade ties with Beijing, the WSJ reported.
The Colombian Air Force reportedly confirmed that the device traveled at a speed of 29 mph in the northern parts of the country, but noted that “this element did not represent a threat to national security and defense.” “
Costa Rica’s foreign ministry also said a second balloon flew over its territory and the Chinese embassy in San Jose apologized for the incident.
Officials in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil reportedly declined to comment.
News of China’s spy balloon comes at a particularly difficult time for US-China relations. In light of the scandal, Secretary of State Anthony Blanken postponed indefinitely his plans to visit China earlier this week.
“We have assessed that it would not be favorable or constructive to travel to Beijing now,” an official told reporters on Friday.
“And I think that, in this current environment, frankly, I think that would have significantly narrowed the agenda that we would have been able to address.”
China’s confirmation of the second balloon also came shortly after Michael Mazza, a non-resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in The Post that the suspicious devices presented a “Sputnik moment” for Biden’s America.
Referring to the Soviet Union’s October 1957 satellite launch, Mazza called on Washington to use the spy balloon incident as fuel for bilateral relations.
“Republicans and Democrats must come together to make sure this moment doesn’t end in a meaningless puff of hot air,” he insisted.
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