China claims responsibility for second balloon found flying over Latin America, and has the same excuse
Days after the U.S. shot down the first balloon, a second was seen flying over Latin America as China claims it was lost like the first.
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Do not miss a chance to catch China in a city near you on the next leg of its balloon world tour. It’s already hit the U.S., and now Latin America.
Last week, the U.S. spotted a high-altitude balloon flying over American airspace before shooting it down off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 4. Officials have claimed it was likely some sort of surveillance device.
Late last week and into the weekend, U.S. Pentagon officials spotted another similar large white balloon flying over Latin America.
China's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday, Feb. 6, that the balloon was also owned by China and offered the same excuse it provided for the one shot down over the Atlantic Ocean.
In the time since, Navy divers have worked to recover what was left of the balloon after shooting it down to study it.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the unmanned balloon was Chinese, but said it was "of civilian nature and used for flight test."
"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," Mao said.
Mao added that China had spoken with Latin American countries regarding the balloon.
"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."
Mao also discussed the alleged reports that similar balloons flew over the country during former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
"As to the alleged three instances of China flying surveillance balloons over the U.S. during the Trump administration, I noted that Mr. Trump has denied the claim," Mao said.
Mao also told reporters the second balloon had "deviated greatly" from the route and cited the balloon's "limited maneuverability" and the weather.
But according to several U.S. officials, the balloon was being used to spy on military sites.
Admiral Mike Mullen, former chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not agree with China’s assessment that the balloon had strayed off, saying it was maneuverable because "it has propellers on it."
"This was not an accident. This was deliberate. It was intelligence," he added.
These pair of incidents have only further soured relations between China and the U.S., with the Pentagon calling it an "unacceptable violation" of its sovereignty.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a planned trip to China before it was canceled as a result of the row.
China has also since filed a formal complaint with the American Embassy in Beijing.