The United States Department of Defense reported that it sighted a second surveillance balloon, presumably of Chinese origin, in Latin American airspace. The announcement comes after the Pentagon reported this week on the detection of a first device of this type that still flies over its territory. The sighting caused the suspension of the expected visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing. China maintains that the balloon in the US is for scientific purposes.
‘Spy balloons’, the latest thorn in tense relations between Beijing and Washington.
According to information from the United States Department of Defense, a second device of this type was detected in the airspace of Latin America. The aerostatic sphere would fulfill surveillance functions, like the one detected over Montana, in the northern United States, in recent days.
“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America (…) Now we assess that it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” said Pentagon spokesman General Patrick Ryder.
Although the US government did not refer to the exact location of the device, an official told local television that the device currently “does not appear to be heading” to its territory.
In addition, the Costa Rican newspaper ‘La Nación’ reported that hundreds of people in that country observed a white balloon with similar characteristics.
Dozens of images of what would be the “spy balloon” flooded social networks and the local press highlighted that it had been observed since last Thursday, February 2, over the Pacific and the Greater Metropolitan Area, the country’s main urban agglomeration.
“We do not have the identification of who sent it,” the director general of Civil Aviation, Fernando Naranjo, assured the Costa Rican newspaper.
No meteorological organization in the Central American nation has claimed the launch of the device.
It’s “Unacceptable”: US Blames China; Beijing marks “defamation” against him
The clashes between the two powers, amid trade and technological rivalry, the war in Ukraine and the status of Taiwan, among other issues, are now being raised by a ‘spy balloon’. or two.
The highest representative of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, described the finding as “unacceptable” and as an “irresponsible” action. The rejection comes at a crucial moment in relations between the two countries, just as the Secretary of State was preparing to visit China this weekend, an official trip that would be the first visit by a senior White House official to Beijing since 2018.
But the rapprochement experienced a step back with Blinken suspending his visit and Beijing dismissing the meeting.
This Saturday, February 4, the Chinese Foreign Ministry noted that the meeting had never “been confirmed.”
“Neither party has ever announced that there would be a visit. It is a matter of the US making its latest announcement, and we respect that,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.
Likewise, the Xi Jinping Administration assured that his country is being targeted by inaccurate information.
“Some politicians and media in the United States have exaggerated to attack and smear China. The Chinese side is strongly opposed to that,” he stressed.
On the other hand, the director of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Office, Wang Yi, called on the US to “remain calm”
“In the face of unexpected situations, the two sides should remain calm, communicate in time, avoid misjudgment, and control differences (…) China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law. We do not accept any baseless speculation,” she added.
Over the last few hours, the information about the supposed ‘spy balloon’ took a crucial turn, after Beijing acknowledged that the artifact seen in the United States is from its country, although it stated that it is for meteorological purposes.
According to Beijing, the airship deviated from its course for reasons of “force majeure” due to “westerly winds and limited self-steering ability.”
But the truth is that the sighting still keeps alarm bells going in Washington, which initially even considered shooting it down, but later ruled it out, citing security reasons, especially after being detected in Montana, a state that is home to three nuclear missile silo fields, at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Now, the detection of a second ‘spy balloon’ in Latin America raises questions and complicates the political atmosphere in the United States and China, with no guarantee yet of reviving diplomatic momentum.
The appointment canceled by Blinken was the product of the Biden and Xi Jinping summit in Indonesia in November 2022, the highest-level meeting in recent years between their governments.
Shooting at sea: a viable option on the table
The demolition of the alleged ‘spy balloon’ is once again on the table. Specifically on the desk of the President of the United States. Two officials, who were quoted by the AP agency on condition of anonymity, stated that Joe Biden would have given the go-ahead for the operation.
The key to the project is to shoot it down in the Atlantic Ocean, where it can be recovered and does not cause major damage, as it would do if it were done on the mainland. This was the main cause of discussion on the part of those who proposed its demolition in the first instance.
In this sense, the operation would be preparing to the millimeter to be able to recover the greatest amount of material possible before it is lost in the depths of the sea. According to the Pentagon, headquarters of the US Army Headquarters, the balloon has an estimated size of three school buses.
President Joe Biden on Saturday broke his public silence on the suspected Chinese spy balloon drifting across the US, telling reporters “we’re going to take care of it.” https://t.co/aETWayo6Nh
— POLITICAL (@political) February 4, 2023
This Saturday, when questioned on the subject, the White House tenant was clear in his response, although he did not give details. “We will take care of that,” concluded the president.
With Reuters, EFE and local media