China brought down its balloon after it crossed Latin America

China took down its own balloon after transiting Latin America around the same time an alleged spy balloon from Beijing was crossing the United States earlier this year, the head of the U.S. Northern Command revealed Wednesday.

“What I understand is the [People’s Republic of China] actually terminated that balloon in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of South America,” Gen. Glen VanHerck told the House Armed Services Committee lawmakers.  

U.S. Southern Command head Gen. Laura Richardson, who spoke alongside VanHerck, confirmed the assessment.

China last month acknowledged that it was the owner of a balloon spotted over Costa Rica, Nicaragua, northern Colombia and Venezuela. Used for flight tests, the balloon had “seriously deviated” from its planned course “by mistake” due to weather conditions, Beijing claimed at the time.

But it was not known until now what had eventually happened to the balloon. 

The incident came at the same time a similar high-altitude Chinese balloon was first detected floating eastward over Alaska on Jan. 28. The aerial object eventually traveled down across Canada and back into the U.S. airspace, spending time above sensitive missile sites in Montana before traveling over the U.S. Southeast. 

VanHerck said the incident in U.S. airspace, which ended with fighter jets shooting down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina in early February, “demonstrates the limitations of our domain awareness.”  

“The PRC high altitude balloon was obviously a significant event that shined a light on the PRC’s brazen intelligence collection against the United States and Canada,” he said in his opening remarks. “It was the first time in NORTHCOM’s history we conducted an engagement over the United States and it made clear that our competitors have the capability and intent to reach our homeland.” 

The four-star general also said the United States must modernize its radars and “field as soon as possible the over-the-horizon capabilities” meant to detect incoming objects. 

Tags China Chinese spy balloon Latin America Laura Richardson

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