- WASHINGTON POST
Another Chinese surveillance balloon spotted over Latin America, U.S. says
15:33 JST, February 5, 2023
The Pentagon has assessed that an airborne vehicle spotted over Latin America, similar to the one seen over the continental United States, is another Chinese spy balloon.
“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America,” Department of Defense spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon.”
The assessment comes amid a diplomatic row sparked by the first balloon, which was spotted over Montana on Wednesday and has since prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to Beijing just hours before his departure.
The Chinese government claimed that the device flying over the United States was a “civilian airship” that is used to collect information about the weather with “limited self-steering capability.” But a U.S. defense official rejected such claims, telling The Post that it lingered near sensitive sites including Malmstrom Air Force Base, which has a nuclear missile silo field.
The high-altitude balloon over the United States is not considered a physical or military threat to those on the ground, officials have said, though it is unusual for the way it has lingered for “an extended period of time.”
While the suspected Chinese spy balloon in the United States has been linked to tense relations between the two countries, Beijing has been working to bolster its ties to Latin America, where the Pentagon said the other balloon was spotted.
China is Latin America’s second-largest trading partner, just behind the United States, according to a 2022 report from the Council on Foreign Relations. According to the report, 20 Latin American countries have signed on to be a part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure project led by Beijing.
The growing investment in Latin America has happened alongside security threats. In 2021, the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center took control of websites run by Chinese hacking group Nickel across 29 countries, and noted the organization had “a large amount of activity targeting Central and South American governments.”
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