( Spanish) — The plot of Chinese balloons allegedly monitoring the western skies did not stop with the shooting down of one of these intelligence devices by the United States over the weekend. Now China has admitted that another balloon, seen in the skies of Latin American countries, is its own.
This Monday, when responding to a query, Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, admitted for the first time that a balloon seen over the skies of Latin America belongs to this country.
“The unmanned aircraft in question from China has been verified to be of a civilian nature and used for flight tests,” Mao told a regular press conference on Monday. “It was affected by the weather and has limited self-control. The aircraft deviated from its intended route and entered the skies over Latin America and the Caribbean in error.”
This is the first time that Beijing has admitted that the balloon seen over two Latin American countries belongs to China.
According to Mao, the balloon “severely deviated” from its planned course and entered the skies of Latin America and the Caribbean “by mistake” due to weather conditions and the limited ability to control the craft, he told a press conference. regular.
“China is a responsible country. We have always strictly respected international law. We informed all relevant parties and properly handled the situation, which did not pose any threat to any country,” Mao said, adding that all parties “expressed their understanding.”
Balloon observed in Costa Rica and Colombia
Two Latin American countries reported that they saw a balloon transit in their skies.
One of them was Colombia, whose Air Force (FAC) reported that last Friday its National Air Defense System “detected an object above 55,000 feet, which entered Colombian airspace in the northern sector of the country.”
The object in question, according to the FAC, had “characteristics similar to those of a balloon” and was monitored through Defense Systems until it left Colombian airspace.
The Air Force said that the balloon did not present a threat to national security and defense and that it launched investigations to establish the origin of the object.
Meanwhile, the Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported Monday that China apologized for the balloon that flew over the airspace of the Central American country.
“The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its Embassy in San José, apologized for the incident,” the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry replied to a Reuters query.
“The balloon that was observed from various parts of the national territory was of a civilian nature and had scientific, mainly meteorological, purposes,” added the Foreign Ministry based on the Chinese report, according to which the object deviated from its original route due to meteorological problems. and limited capacity for self-direction, Reuters reported.
Costa Rica also did not report threats to its national security. The director of Civil Aviation, Fernando Naranjo Elizondo, told that because the balloon left Costa Rican airspace, the investigations will not continue, since it also did not fall to the ground, so further inquiries in this regard were ruled out.
On Friday, Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said: “We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We are now evaluating whether it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” without specifying the object’s exact location.
This Monday, when the president of the United States, Joe Biden, was asked if he had been in contact with Colombia or Costa Rica to talk about the Chinese balloon, He said that he personally did not. but the Department of Defense does.
The Chinese globe in the US
A balloon with these same characteristics was seen over the skies of the USA on January 28, hovering over Alaska.
The balloon then traveled across Canada to the United States, where it spent time loitering over sensitive missile sites in Montana, authorities said.
US officials say the balloon was being used for surveillance and the Pentagon followed it for several days as it made its way over the northern United States before US warplanes shot it down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
China expressed outrage that the balloon was shot down and repeated its previous claims that the balloon was for civilian use and that it strayed into US airspace by mistake.
— With reporting by ‘s Selina Wang, Wayne Chang, Jonny Hallam, Sharif Paget, Caroll Alvarado; Djenanne Villanueva of en Español, and Reuters.