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US says another Chinese balloon spotted near Latin America

February 4, 2023

The second "surveillance balloon" announcement comes after the first sighting prompted the top US diplomat to postpone a trip to Beijing. China claims the balloons are used for scientific purposes.

 Picture of white balloon against a deep-blue sky
The first Chinese "spy balloon" was spotted over the US state of Montana this weekImage: Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette/AP/picture alliance

A second Chinese high-altitude balloon has been spotted near Latin America, the Pentagon said late on Friday.

"We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America," Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder said. "We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon."

He did not specify exactly where the balloon was spotted.

The sighting comes a day after US officials announced the presence of a suspected Chinese "spy balloon" flying over sensitive sites in Montana.

This incident prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a high-stakes trip to Beijing.

What did China say about the balloon incident?

China has dismissed reports about the first balloon, saying it was used for "civilian" meteorological purposes that deviated off course "due to the influence of westerly winds and its limited control capability."

"China regrets that the airship strayed into the United States by mistake due to force majeure," China's Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

On Saturday, China's Foreign Ministry put out a second statement addressing the US response.

"China... never violated the territory and airspace of any sovereign country," it said.

"Some politicians and media in the United States used the [balloon] incident as a pretext to attack and smear China."

In the US, some lawmakers called for the armed forces to shoot down the balloon using F-22 fighter jets.

However, the military decided against this course of action due the risk posed by falling debris.

Calls for communication

Despite the canceled trip, Blinken said he remained committed to diplomatic relations with China and would be prepared to visit "at the earliest opportunity when conditions allow."

Chinese Foreign Ministry official Wang Yi also said late on Friday that, "faced with unexpected situations, both parties need to keep calm, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments and manage differences."

zc/fb (AFP, Reuters, AP)