The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed late Friday that it has identified a second Chinese spy balloon that is operating over the Americas right now.
“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon.”
Ryder revealed Friday that the spy balloon that is currently operating over the United States, and that the Biden administration has not taken action against, has the ability to maneuver and has changed direction at 60,000 feet.
Ryder would not say how the balloon could be maneuvered and refused to state if the communist Chinese government was in control of the balloon.
“We know that balloon has violated US airspace and international law — which is unacceptable. And we’ve conveyed this directly to the PRC on multiple levels,” he told reporters Friday. “The fact is, we know that it’s a surveillance balloon, and I’m not going to be able to be more specific than that.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed in a statement that the balloon was a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes.”
The statement claimed that the balloon “deviated far from its planned course.” The distance from China to Montana is approximately 5,000 miles.
A U.S. official told The New York Times that the spy balloon traveled from China to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands then to Canada before ending up over Montana.
An official told CNN that the spy balloon has flown over “a number of sensitive sites” in the U.S. but claimed that it did not present a serious intelligence gathering risk.
“Clearly they’re trying to fly this — this balloon over sensitive sites … to collect information,” a U.S. official said on Thursday.
Biden administration officials claimed that they looked at whether there were options to shoot down the balloon but claimed that they did not feel comfortable doing so because it could cause damage to civilians when it hits the ground.
Professor Steve Tsang, the director of the China Institute at the SOAS University of London, said that China’s motive in sending the balloon to the U.S. is more “symbolic value, showing that the Chinese are able to send something in the air to survey U.S. military installations.”
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