Chase Doak/via REUTERS
- A massive, high altitude balloon was spotted Tuesday drifting above the United States.
- Pentagon officials on Thursday identified the balloon as a “Chinese surveillance” device.
- On Friday, a second surveillance balloon was identified flying above Latin America.
A second high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon has been spotted in Latin America as one discovered earlier this week drifts across the central United States, Pentagon officials said Friday.
“We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” AP reported Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said. Ryder declined to give additional details, such as where the second balloon was spotted.
The first balloon was spotted flying over Alaska and parts of Canada before arriving over the city of Billings, Montana — near Malmstrom Air Force Base, which houses 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Ryder said in a statement emailed to Insider that the balloon is currently moving eastward across the country and has “a large payload underneath the surveillance component,” though there is “no physical or military threat to people on the ground.”
China has maintained the device is a “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” according to an official statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.
US Pentagon officials have declared the balloons surveillance devices.
“The fact is we know that it’s a surveillance balloon, and I’m not going to be able to be more specific than that,” Ryder said in a statement emailed to Insider. “And we do know that the balloon has violated US airspace and international law, which is unacceptable.”
The Department of Defense declined to answer Insider’s questions regarding the balloons.
These are not the only balloons used as surveillance devices between China and the United States. At least one balloon was discovered over the US during the Trump administration, AP reported. In 1957, China claimed it shot down what it identified as a “spy balloon,” though US Navy called it “a weather experiment that had blown off course,” according to the US Naval Institute.
While there has been pressure by some members of Congress, as well as Trump, to shoot down the balloon, officials say it’s not that simple, in part because fighter aircraft aren’t designed to target balloons.
When a weather balloon went rogue 25 years ago, two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter aircraft fired more than 1,000 rounds at it and couldn’t shoot it down.