Beijing Confirms That Balloon Spotted Over Latin America Is From China

Beijing Confirms That Balloon Spotted Over Latin America Is From China
A high altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on Feb. 1, 2023. (The Canadian Press/The Billings Gazette via AP-Larry Mayer)
Chinese authorities have confirmed that the balloon that was spotted over Latin America this past weekend is Chinese. Officials in Colombia confirmed a sighting of an airborne object similar to a balloon flying over its territory, in a statement on Saturday, Feb. 4.

According to the statement from the Colombian military, its air defense service detected the object, described as similar to a balloon, moving at a speed of 25 knots per hour entering the country’s northern airspace at an altitude of 55,000 feet. The Colombian Air Force mobilized to monitor the object until it exited the country’s airspace. The military determined that the object posed no threat to national security, defense, or air safety.

On Monday, Feb. 6, Chinese authorities confirmed that the balloon over Latin America was Chinese. “It has come to our attention that the vessel in question is from China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a press conference Monday.

Mao stated that the second balloon was being used for civilian flight testing. She claims that due to weather impact and limited navigation capabilities, the balloon significantly veered from its intended path.

Furthermore, she claimed that the aircraft had “accidentally entered Latin American and Caribbean airspace.” Speaking to journalists, Mao mentioned that the second balloon had “deviated greatly” from its course due to the aircraft’s “limited maneuverability.” She stated, “The unmanned airship in question that came from China is of a civilian nature and used for flight tests,” further adding, “China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law in order to inform and properly deal with all parties concerned, without posing any threat to any country.”

Similar Balloon Shot Down Above US Territorial Waters

Military jets shot down a similar balloon in United States airspace on Saturday amidst claims that it was being used for surveillance. Last week, the Chinese Communist Party confirmed that the balloon flying over the United States was Chinese and claimed it was a civilian meteorological balloon that had been blown off course. However, this assertion was widely contested by United States military officials.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a written statement that the balloon was being used in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States and that it was brought down above U.S. territorial waters.
A senior defense official stated that although the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat, its intrusion into American airspace was a violation of U.S. sovereignty. The official denied the Chinese claims that the balloon was a runaway weather balloon. He stated that it was a surveillance balloon seeking to monitor sensitive military sites.

The United States is now taking steps to recover the balloon and protect against its collection of sensitive information. United States Navy and Coast Guard vessels have established a security perimeter around the area where the balloon came down and are searching for debris. The recovery mission is expected to be fairly easy as the balloon came down in a shallow area.

Local officials in North and South Carolina have issued warnings to locals not to touch any debris from the suspected Chinese spy balloon and said people should contact local authorities if debris from the balloon washes ashore.