(VitalNews.org) – Perhaps Chinese Communist Party officials made an interesting choice ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned trip to Beijing. Yet some observers are questioning whether they might have miscalculated. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) detected what the US military has characterized as a spy balloon over Alaska on Saturday, January 28. The US Pentagon confirmed the sighting of a second spy balloon over Latin America on Friday, February 3.
The first uncrewed high-altitude spy balloon made its way to Canada by January 30 and returned to US airspace over Northern Idaho by Tuesday, January 31, according to the Washington Post. Defense and Intelligence officials claim US bases took steps to shield sensitive information and implemented countermeasures.
BREAKING: US confirms second Chinese balloon floating in sky https://t.co/VsvPP3PHaM
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 4, 2023
Although President Joe Biden authorized force to neutralize the target on Wednesday, February 1, the military advised against shooting at the uncrewed aerial vehicle over land where debris might harm civilians. The balloon flew over Malmstrom Air Force Base, a strategic nuclear site, in Montana that day and continued southeast over Nebraska and Kansas. By Friday, February 3, observers spotted the spy vessel near St. Louis, Missouri.
While Chinese officials protested, saying the US was blowing things out of proportion because the object was simply an errant weather balloon blown off course by bad weather, the Pentagon confirmed a second spy balloon showed up over Colombia in South America. Colombia took no action. On Friday, Blinken postponed his trip to China, ratcheting up tensions and further eroding relations.
In a press release, Pentagon officials said they were able to “scrutinize the balloon and its equipment” as it entered US airspace over Alaska, confirming that the Chinese never intended the vessel for weather observations.
On Saturday, February 4, an F-22 Raptor shot a Sidewinder missile at the first balloon as it floated off the coast of South Carolina. Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin described the president’s order to take the surveillance balloon in a statement. US Navy divers continued working to recover debris from shallow waters on Monday.
Also on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning claimed the second balloon as an “unmanned airship” with limited maneuverability used for test flights of a “civilian nature,” according to the BBC. In a separate statement in response to the US shooting down the first airship, China lodged a protest and issued a subtle threat, saying, “China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved and retains the right to respond further,” reported ABC News.
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