China Claims Ownership of Second Spy Balloon in Latin America

A photo of a white balloon spotted in Japan in 2020.

A photo of a giant white balloon flying over Japan 2020.
Photo: Kaname Muto (AP)

The great Chinese spy balloon drama of 2023 is not over yet. As it turns out, there’s another not-a-spy balloon floating over Latin America and yes, that one also belongs to China.

On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that the second giant floating balloon spotted over Latin America in recent days belonged to the country, CNN reported. According to China, the balloon, which it claims was used for “flight tests,” deviated way off course because of the weather and the aircraft’s limited steering capabilities. The country’s explanation is nearly identical to the one it used to justify the balloon that ended up over Montana, which the U.S. claims was a spy.

Montana houses one of the nation’s three nuclear silo fields. The U.S. military shot down the alleged Chinese spy balloon on Saturday off South Carolina while it floated over the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone in Washington freaked out.

“China is a responsible country. We have always strictly abided by international law,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing on Monday, per CNN. “We have informed all relevant parties and appropriately handled the situation, which did not pose any threats to any countries.”

Ning added that the countries the second spy balloon floated over had “expressed their understanding.”

Understanding or not, the balloon caused commotion in Colombia and Costa Rica, the two countries which confirmed the object’s presence in their airspace. On Saturday, the Colombia Air Force said they had spotted an object flying at 55,000 feet at about 28 miles per hour that had “characteristics similar to those of a balloon.” The country tracked the object until it crossed the border.

“By doing this, it was determined that this element didn’t present a threat to national security and defense or to aviation safety,” the Colombian Air Force said in a statement.

In Costa Rica, Fernando Naranjo Elizondo, the head of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority, told local outlet CRHoy on Saturday that the agency had scant information about the balloon.

“We don’t know if the balloon continued to fly at the same altitude it was at when we identified it, although the altitude didn’t vary much,” Naranjo said. “But we don’t know if the balloon descended at night, if it continued ascending, or what trajectory it followed. We didn’t receive any reports from any planes or people about it.”

As for the recently deceased not-a-spy balloon in the U.S., it’s still causing a big commotion. On Monday, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng accused the U.S. of using an “indiscriminate use of force” againts a civilian aircraft, which China claimed was used for meteorology. Xie said he had filed a complaint with the U.S. embassy over the incident, according to the Associated Press.

“However, the United States turned a deaf ear and insisted on indiscriminate use of force against the civilian airship that was about to leave the United States airspace, obviously overreacted and seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice,” the vice foreign minister said.

Xie added that by shooting down the balloon, the U.S. had seriously impacted and damaged efforts at stabilizing relations between both countries. He stated that China reserved the right to “make further necessary responses.”

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