Another Chinese Stratospheric Balloon Detected in LATAM
After the detection of two Chinese stratospheric balloons above the American continent, tensions between China and the US escalated. China said that the balloons deviated from the planned route due to weather problems and assured that they were not for espionage. Despite the statement, several countries such as Mexico are checking their airspace in case the balloon poses any risk.
Last week, the US reported that it identified a stratospheric balloon in its territory and accused the Chinese government of spying. However, the Chinese government emphasized that it was a weather balloon. The device entered via Alaska and crossed the country to South Carolina, where it was finally shot down on the orders of US President Joe Biden.
The US government affirmed that the issue did not affect the relationship between the two countries. However, China stressed that the US had overreacted and accused it of starting an information war. By then, the situation has escalated to the point that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to China was canceled.
In addition to the US balloon sighting, another was encountered in Latin America, tracked across Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela. Mao Ning, a Spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, explained that the balloon was used for "flight tests" and had accidentally
deviated from its planned route. “Affected by the weather and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course and entered into the airspace of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Ning.
The Chinese government said it has briefed officials from various Latin American countries about the balloon, stressing that they understood the situation. Other countries, such as Venezuela, have even defended China, which criticized the US’ decision to shoot down the balloon because there was no evidence that it posed a threat. "Once again, the US resorts to the use of force instead of treating this situation with the seriousness and responsibility that the case deserves," said Yván Gil, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister.
Jesús Ramírez, a Spokesperson for the Mexican government, affirmed that so far no stratospheric balloon has been found in Mexico and assured that the authorities will be ready in the case something appears. President López Obrador emphasized that the continent collaborates to tackle such problems, so the situation will be resolved soon. “There are protocols to proceed with aircraft that cross the airspace without permission. And in the case of aircraft interceptions, information is shared with other countries in South America, Central America and the US,” said Ramírez.
In accordance with the Mexican Civil Aeronautics Law, non-commercial foreign aircraft or balloons may enter the national airspace with the authorization of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation. Mexican authorities have emphasized that the balloon from China did not have a permit and could therefore be seen as a threat.