Beijing says balloon over Latin America belongs to China
After the first ballon shoot-down over the US, Kirby confirms that there exists no need to escalate tensions between the US and China or to devolve ties.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning confirmed on Monday that the balloon located over Latin American skies belongs to China and was intended for flight tests, adding that the balloon "seriously deviated" from its course and entered the current airspace “by mistake” as a result of weather conditions and limited control ability.
This comes as the second time a Chinese balloon is spotted after the first was shot down by the US on Saturday for being suspected as a "spy" balloon. In response, Mao stated, “China is a responsible country. We have always strictly abided by international law. We have informed all relevant parties and appropriately handled the situation, which did not pose any threats to any countries,” stressing that all parties “expressed their understanding.”
Both Colombian Air Force and Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed viewing a white balloon similar to the one spotted over the US but did not instantly point fingers at China.
However, Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder claimed it was "another Chinese surveillance balloon."
An 'attack and smear' against China
The first balloon was located over the North American Aerospace Defense Command on January 28 over Alaska, before it was found floating over missile sites in Montana. Days later, after tracking, the US decided to shoot it down over the South Carolina coast.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry stated on Saturday that "China... never violated the territory and airspace of any sovereign country," adding that "some politicians and media in the United States used the (balloon) incident as a pretext to attack and smear China."
Read next: Previous Chinese 'spy' balloons went undetected while in US airspace
Following the shoot-down, US Navy and Coast Guard vessels went to the site where the debris of the balloon was found and a senior military official confirmed that the DoD, the FBI, and “counter-intelligence authorities ” are on “a collaborative effort” to aid in “categorizing and assessing the platform itself."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said afterward, "... at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in US airspace."
According to the Defense Secretary, the balloon had been used by China in efforts to "surveil strategic sites" in the US.
Blinken still due to go to China
In light of the balloon shoot-down and China's response of possible retaliation, White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby assured during a press briefing on Monday that no reason exists to escalate tensions between the US and China over the balloon.
Read more: Republicans lambast Biden over handling of Chinese balloon
“There is no reason for the tensions in our bilateral relationship to devolve into some kind of conflict, but we will obviously continue to fly, sail and operate within the bounds of international law as we have,” Kirby said.
Following the responses, Secretary of State Antony Blinken's trip to China was confirmed by Kirby to be postponed and not voided.
“It was postponed, it was not canceled,” Kirby said.
It is worth noting that relations between the US and China have deteriorated particularly over Taiwan, with Washington selling arms to Taipei, as Biden has said he would help protect the island in case of an alleged Chinese attack.