Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 3, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A second Chinese spy balloon is currently traversing Latin America, Pentagon confirmed late on Feb. 3 amid rising concern about a Chinese surveillance balloon hovering eastward across the continental United States.
“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a statement to media outlets.
The comment came hours after Ryder was pressed at a briefing with reporters about a Canadian defense ministry statement on Friday that they were monitoring a “potential second incident,” and whether the United States is doing the same. Ryder in response referred the question back to the Canadian authorities.
The first Chinese balloon, which military officials described to be a “high altitude surveillance balloon,” appeared earlier this week above the state of Montana, home to one of the country’s three nuclear missile silo fields.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday postponed a trip to Beijing that would have marked the highest profile U.S. visit to China over the balloon, calling the balloon “irresponsible” and “a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law.”
“[China’s] decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have,” he told reporters.
The Department of Defense wouldn’t confirm the balloon’s exact location, its size, and other details on Friday other than saying that the balloon is maneuverable, has changed course at some point, and that it is currently flying at 60,000 ft eastward across the country.
President Joe Biden was first briefed on the matter on Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Feb. 3, and was given the “strong recommendation” by military leaders not to shoot it down due to the risk that falling debris may harm civilians.
A senior defense official said the U.S. has taken unspecified mitigation measures against the balloon, adding that it was assessed that the device had “limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective over and above what [China] can do through other means.”
The Chinese regime has claimed that the balloon over the United States is a civilian meteorological balloon from China that was blown off course. In response, Ryder said, “The fact is we know it’s a surveillance balloon.”
Costa Rica Reports
Ryder didn’t specify which country the balloon is currently hovering over, but local reports have cited sightings of a white balloon of mysterious origin over Costa Rica, which the country’s civil aviation authorities said doesn’t have a fly authorization.
“My big concern with the Chinese balloon flight is if this is a test to see how fast we react and what we do,” Art Thompson, CEO of California-based company Sage Cheshire Aerospace which provides stratospheric balloon launching and research services, told The Epoch Times.
The two balloons appear to have been launched from different locations, he said. The photos Thomson examined of the two balloons, over the United States and Costa Rica, show that they are very similar in style.
“When I look at the trajectory, the question is, where did they launch it from? And it could have been launched from mainland China, and then just drifted over and would have done a little oscillation in its flight,” he said.
Thompson has advocated for the United States to shoot down the balloon currently moving eastward over the nation with laser weapons. He believes that U.S. authorities still have several days to take action before the balloon reaches international waters, but the one over Costa Rica would have a much shorter timeline.
“It’s going to be out of touch fairly quickly because in Costa Rica, they’re going to be across into the gulf pretty fast,” he said.
“The Chinese are definitely testing us and preparing for something.”