A suspected Chinese spy balloon that the US blew down this week was able to gather communications signals, according to a US official.
A senior State Department official revealed in a background briefing that it has several antennas capable of “intelligence collecting operations”.
Congressmen from the US voted a non-binding resolution Thursday criticizing China for the balloon.
China has refuted claims that the balloon was used for espionage. The People’s Republic also claimed that the balloon was a weather instrument that got lost.
The US, however, believes the balloon is part of a wider fleet of surveillance balloons that has spanned five continents.
House of Representatives lawmakers called the balloon a “brazen infringement of American sovereignty”. They voted 419 to 0 on Thursday morning to condemn its use.
Its entry into US airspace sparked a diplomatic crisis; it also forced US Sectretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to China. It’s the first of such high-level US-China meeting there in years. Over the weekend, a fighter jet operated by the US military brought the balloon down over the Atlantic Ocean.
On Thursday, China claimed to be unaware of any larger fleet of monitoring balloons. According to a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Mao Ning, the assertion is “likely a component of the information and public opinion warfare the US has fought against China.”
Additionally, China criticised US President Joe Biden for claiming during a PBS interview that Chinese President Xi Jinping was dealing with “enormous issues”.