Colombia says balloon flew over country amid US-China tension over spying


The Colombian government confirmed this Sunday (5) that it spotted a balloon passing through its territory, hours after the United States cited the observation of a second artifact of the type, attributed to spying activities by China, flying over Latin America.

The issue has dominated political discussions in recent days in Washington. On Saturday afternoon (4), a US Air Force fighter shot down a Chinese balloon off the coast of South Carolina. The case sparked a diplomatic row, with the postponement of a trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing, and prompted a tough response from Beijing.

“The fact that the US has insisted on the use of armed force is clearly an excessive reaction, which violates international conventions,” the chancellery said in a statement. “China will defend the legitimate rights and interests of the company involved and reserves the right to respond in the future.” Beijing had previously said the object was civilian and that its presence in US airspace was “completely accidental”.

This Sunday, the Colombian Air Force said that equipment “with characteristics similar to those of a balloon” of the type was identified on Friday morning (3) and monitored until it left the country’s territory. According to the statement, the artifact was 55,000 feet (16.7 km) high — in the US, the downed balloon flew at 60,000 feet (18 km).

The corporation added that it does not believe that the piece spotted by the country’s Air Defense System represented a threat to national security or civil aviation, but stressed that it will carry out “the pertinent investigations, with different countries and institutions, to determine the origin of the object”.

On Saturday, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense had cited a second “Chinese spy balloon” over Latin America, without detailing the location or mentioning the country in which the equipment would have been sighted – highlighting only that it apparently did not headed for American territory.

The alleged high-altitude spy balloon that triggered a new crisis between Washington and Beijing entered a US identification zone for the first time on January 28. Three days later, it passed into Canadian airspace and returned to American airspace on the 31st. Only on Thursday (2) did the Pentagon claim to have detected the item, sighted for the first time in the Aleutian Islands, in Alaska.

President Joe Biden had given orders for the military to take down the balloon as quickly as possible, but defense authorities had to wait until it began to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, at risk of debris reaching civilian areas – the artifact would have the size equivalent to three buses.

The balloon traveled diagonally across the country, from Idaho to South Carolina, over the course of seven days, and its prolonged stay over US territory provoked reactions inside and outside the government, with Washington maintaining that it clearly violated US sovereignty.

The discovery has baffled security experts, who say that while both countries have used satellites to keep tabs on each other, balloons sound like a somewhat amateurish spy tactic: the images they manage to produce aren’t much more valuable in terms of information than those produced from space.

For some analysts, then, the artifact would actually be a political provocation.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the instrument is of civilian origin and is used mainly for meteorological research. Beijing diplomacy said it regretted that the object had deviated from its route and entered American airspace due to, according to the folder, air currents.

You May Also Like

Recommended for you

Immediate Peak