Another Chinese spy balloon is currently making its way over Latin America, Pentagon officials said Friday night.
“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.
No additional information about the balloon or its location was available, he said.
The report of a second balloon comes after Pentagon officials announced Thursday that a high-altitude balloon had been spotted flying over sensitive sites in the western US to collect information.
A senior Pentagon official said the US is “confident” that the aircraft is from China.
President Biden was reportedly briefed on the matter and asked for military options. Fighter jets — including F-22s — were prepared to shoot down the balloon, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has so far advised against it to prevent debris from potentially causing destruction and casualties on the ground.
On Thursday the balloon was seen over 60,000 feet above Montana — home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The balloon continued to make its way east and on Friday it was spotted over Kansas City, Missouri.
“While we won’t get into specifics in regards to the exact location, I can tell you that the balloon continues to move eastward and is currently over the center of the continental United States,” Ryder said Friday, adding that the balloon will likely be over US airspace for “a few days.”
Ryder described the balloon as “maneuverable,” noting that it “has changed its course, which is again why we’re monitoring it.” He said military officials will continue to assess their “options,” without ruling out shooting it down eventually.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday denied that the balloon was for surveillance. Instead, it claimed the object was a civilian weather instrument that had drifted off course and denied that it had any “intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country.”
The controversy forced Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel his planned trip to China early next week.
Meanwhile, a viral video purporting to show what looks like an explosion over Billings, Montana Friday night prompted online speculation that a balloon had been shot out of the sky.
But authorities had not been able to substantiate the content of the video or reach the Twitter user who posted it. City officials told KULR8 that there were no reports of plane crashes or explosions in, around or across Montana. Law enforcement is working to verify the legitimacy of the video.