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Pentagon: There is another Chinese 'surveillance' balloon transiting Latin America

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that a second Chinese surveillance balloon has been "assessed" as transiting Latin America.

Pentagon Another Chinese 'surveillance' balloon transiting Latin America
First Published Feb 4, 2023, 9:19 AM IST

Even as the diplomatic standoff over a Chinese high-altitude balloon flying over sensitive nuclear sites in the US State of Montana continues, the Pentagon has now reported that there is another Chinese equipment transiting over Latin America.

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that a second Chinese surveillance balloon has been "assessed" as transiting Latin America.

Also Read: 'Too risky to shoot down...' US after Chinese 'spy' balloon spotted over nuclear launch site

The latest detection is bound to escalate the diplomatic spat between the United States and China. After the first surveillance balloon was spotted, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken postponed his planned trip to Beijing. 

China's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has rejected US claims that the balloon was being used for surveillance. While acknowledging that the balloon belonged to China, the foreign ministry said it was merely a civilian weather research 'airship' that had been blown off course. 'With limited self-steering capability and under the impact of the Westerlies, the airship deviated from its course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majure,' a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said.

China also responded to Blinken's decision to postpone his trip, denying that there was no such visit announced by either country. This response came after Blinken said that he had spoken to senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi about the 'irresponsible act' and how this incident, detected on the eve of his visit, was detrimental to the dialogue they were prepared to have.

In a statement on Saturday morning, Wang said that 'China and US never announced any visit. 'The US making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,' he said.

Also Read: China claims balloon seen over US airspace is 'civilian airship' used for research

Even as Beijing calls the object a civilian weather tracker, Defense Press Secretary Pat Ryder announced that it was a 'surveillance balloon'. The balloon is moving eastward and, until the last reports, was over the centre of the continental United States.

Earlier, the option of shooting down the balloon was considered and rejected after officials briefed the White House that any such action could endanger lives on the ground. According to senior defence officials, the balloon is as big as three school buses. 

Nevertheless, spotting a second Chinese balloon could put the already-strained ties between the US and China under severe test.

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