Beijing has confirmed that a balloon spotted flying over Latin America is Chinese, while the United States worked to recover what it claimed was an unmanned spy craft it shot down at the weekend, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Photo Insert: A Lockheed Martin spy balloon
China has expressed fury at Washington's decision to shoot down a device that it insists was an unmanned weather surveillance aircraft that had veered off course last week but no one believes Beijing’s script since the balloon had propellers and had shifted course several times.
That balloon sparked outrage in the US, which accused China of an "unacceptable violation" of its sovereignty and prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to call off a planned trip to Beijing.
Beijing acknowledged on Monday that the latest balloon, spotted by US and Colombian officials flying over Latin America at the weekend, was also Chinese. Its foreign ministry said the device was of "a civilian nature and used for flight tests," another excuse that governments take with a grain of salt.
Aviation experts cannot comprehend why a balloon being used for ”flight tests” is loitering 5,000 miles from Beijing and soaring higher than the standard limit of 40,000 ft for commercial flights.
"Affected by weather forces in addition to its maneuverability being limited, the airship deviated greatly from its expected course, and accidentally entered Latin American and Caribbean airspace," spokesperson Mao Ning told a media briefing.
That statement came three days after what the Pentagon characterized as another Chinese spy balloon had been seen across Latin America. Colombia's air force reported at the weekend an object with "characteristics similar to those of a balloon" was detected and monitored until it left Colombian air space.