By Agencies and published by CNA
Beijing – The balloon sighted in Latin America is from China and is for civilian purposes, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said today (Feb. 6), after a similar device was shot down by the United States over the weekend.
The Pentagon said on Friday that a second suspected Chinese spy balloon had been seen across Latin America.
Colombia’s air force then reported an object with “characteristics similar to those of a balloon” had been detected and “monitored until it left the national air space”.
The air force said it was conducting investigations in coordination with other countries and institutions “to establish the origins of the object”.
Beijing’s foreign ministry today said the object was “from China” and that it was of “a civilian nature and used for flight tests”.
“Affected by weather forces in addition to its manoeuvrability being limited, the airship deviated greatly from its expected course, and accidentally entered Latin American and Caribbean airspace,” spokesperson Mao Ning told a press briefing.
“China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law,” she added.
“We have communicated with the relevant parties and are handling appropriately, and will not cause any threat to any country.”
The detection of the other balloon over the United States prompted the cancellation of a planned China visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had been due to arrive in Beijing on Sunday.
China voiced anger on Sunday at the shooting down of the balloon, which it insists was an unmanned weather surveillance aircraft that had veered off course.
Washington on Saturday said a fighter jet had shot it down off the coast of South Carolina, because of what it called Beijing’s “unacceptable violation” of American sovereignty.
Beijing protested the move, claiming the balloon was a civilian aircraft that was blown off course, and on Sunday lodged an official complaint with the US embassy in China.
“The United States’ actions have seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilising Sino-US relations since the Bali meeting,” vice foreign minister Xie Feng said in the complaint, according to a foreign ministry statement.
He was referring to a summit between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in November.
Beijing, the statement added, “is paying close attention to the development of the situation” and “reserves the right to make further necessary reactions”.
Pentagon officials on Friday described the airship as a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”, adding that Washington had taken steps to block it from collecting sensitive information.
Top: A jet flies by a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it floats off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, US on Feb .4, 2023. File photo: Reuters/Randall Hill and published by CNA
Front Page: The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, US on Feb. 4, 2023. Photo: Reuters/Randall Hill and published by CNA