- The Pentagon has confirmed that a second balloon, similar to the one shot down by the U.S. on Saturday, has been seen transiting across Central and South America and characterized it as a fleet of surveillance balloons operated by China.
- The Chinese Foreign Ministry describes the balloon over Latin America as an unmanned airship for research purposes that had been blown off course by bad weather, an explanation identical to the one given for the balloon over the U.S. Beijing has pledged to protect the rights of the Chinese company involved but has not identified the company.
- The senior U.S. defense official says the Pentagon believes both balloons were for surveillance purposes and part of the PRC fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations.
- Muted responses have been received from Latin American authorities, with Costa Rica’s civil aviation authority and Colombia’s Air Force reporting spotting a balloon-like object entering their airspaces but unable to determine the origin of the object.
- The U.S. allegations of China conducting surveillance far from its shores add to the concern in Washington and among U.S. allies about the growing global reach of China’s defense and espionage capabilities.
- The incident highlights the fragility of U.S.-China relations, which have become increasingly public in calling out these alleged operations, leaving China scrambling to respond. The visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken has now been postponed indefinitely.
- China’s Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng called the U.S. action an indiscriminate use of force that would further damage U.S.-China relations and urged U.S. officials not to further escalate tensions, saying China would defend its interests.
- Some Chinese officials have said Beijing is unlikely to react too strongly to the U.S. decision to shoot down the balloon as it seeks to maintain dialogue with the U.S. and jump-start its struggling economy, with stable international relations, especially with the U.S.