“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” chief Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said.
It remains unclear why China sent such vehicles above the United States and Costa Rica at the same time, especially since Beijing has space-based satellites that can surveil the same territory with more reliability. It’s possible, though unconfirmed, that other balloons were launched elsewhere around the world but not spotted.
But the news of the Latin American balloon adds to the mystery of why China sent another one to fly over Alaska, Canada, Idaho, Montana and Kansas this week. Earlier on Friday, Ryder said the aircraft in U.S. airspace is headed eastward.
While some have asserted that the Chinese balloons wandered into U.S. airspace by accident, “two balloons being coincidentally off course in two different places certainly seems to deflate that theory,” said Blake Herzinger of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Senior Pentagon officials, including Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chief chair, recommended that the U.S. military not shoot down the balloon to eliminate the risk of debris harming civilians some 60,000 feet below the flight path. But lawmakers, mostly Republicans, insist that the U.S. should take the aircraft out of the sky.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken indefinitely postponed a high-stake visit to China over the discovery of the first balloon above Montana.