(The Hill) – A second Chinese “surveillance balloon” was spotted flying over Latin America after another one traveling across the continental U.S. was detected earlier in the day, officials confirmed Friday evening.
“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brig. Gen Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said. “We have no further information to provide at this time.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement earlier on Friday that the high-altitude balloon that was first seen over Montana on Wednesday belongs to China, but claimed it is a weather balloon that was blown off course by wind.
U.S. officials countered the comment, instead speculating that it is a surveillance balloon. They have not shot it down over fears that doing so could risk public safety.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a scheduled trip to China after the balloon was detected. A State Department official said the conditions are “not right” for Blinken to make the trip at this time and noted that the balloon is a violation of international law and U.S. sovereignty.
Two senior defense officials told NBC News that the U.S. is using counterintelligence measures to block the balloon’s view and moving objects out of its path to limit its capabilities.
Republicans slammed the Biden administration after reports of the first balloon surfaced, saying that the balloon should be shot down immediately.
Some experts said the threat from the balloon is significant, while others called for caution about overstating the risk.