China on Monday acknowledged that a massive balloon seen over Latin America belonged to them, days after the US military shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that had been flying above the US mainland for days.
A white observation balloon similar to the one seen over the US was detected in their airspace last week, according to the Colombian Air Force and Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation Authority, though neither organization assigned the craft to China.
Beijing had never before acknowledged that the balloon seen over two nations in Latin America actually belonged to China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, while responding to various questions regarding two suspected spy balloons, said, “With regard to the balloon over Latin America, it has been verified that the unmanned airship is from China, of civilian nature and used for flight testing.”
China has refuted claims that it was spying, claiming that it was merely monitoring the weather. A diplomatic dispute between Washington and Beijing has started since then.
Mao said, “Affected by the weather and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course and entered into the airspace of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
She added, “China is a responsible country and always acts in strict accordance with international law. We have informed relevant sides. It is being properly handled and will not pose any threat to any country. They have expressed their understanding.”
For most of last week, a comparable high-altitude Chinese balloon was visible over the US.
On January 28, as it sailed eastward over Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense Command made its initial observation. After crossing Canada, the balloon entered the US and spent some time over secret missile installations in Montana, according to American sources.
According to US officials, the balloon was being used for surveillance. The Pentagon followed the balloon for many days as it traveled across the northern United States before US military fighter planes, with President Joe Biden’s assent, shot it down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
China reiterated its prior statements that the balloon was for civilian use and that it accidentally drifted into US territory on Sunday, expressing outrage over the shooting down of the aircraft.
China’s claim that it may have blown off course has been rejected by Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who asserts that it was manoeuvrable since “it had propellers on it.”
“This was not an accident. This was deliberate. It was intelligence,” he added.
The balloon incident has strained ties between China and the US, with the Pentagon labeling it an “unacceptable violation” of national sovereignty. The disagreement led to the cancellation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China this week.