A top US diplomat postponed his Beijing trip after the first balloon breached US airspace
The US military has detected a second high altitude balloon it claims to be a surveillance device belonging to China, last tracked traveling over Latin America.
Speaking to media on Friday, Pentagon spokesman General Pat Ryder said the second object has been assessed as "another Chinese surveillance balloon," although this one does not appear to be headed toward the United States. The general had said hours earlier during a press briefing that the first balloon, spotted in Montana on Wednesday, was in flagrant violation of US airspace.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed his trip to Beijing that was scheduled for next week, and told reporters at a press conference on Friday that the balloon "created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip."
Beijing admitted ownership of Wednesday's balloon, but rejected US claims that it was attempting to collect sensitive information. The Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement on its website describing the aircraft as a "civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes" which "deviated from its intended course" due to strong winds.
The US Defense Department has rejected that claim, insisting it is indeed a surveillance device, as lawmakers across the country call for immediate action from the White House. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter: "China's brazen disregard for US sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent."
The first Chinese airship was spotted traveling over several "sensitive" American military installations, including nuclear sites. US President Joe Biden is expected to brief Congressional leaders from the House and Senate next week concerning the balloon and the DoD response.