The Biden administration says China was using the 200-foot-tall balloon for surveillance, and a senior State Department official said Thursday it was carrying «multiple antennas» capable of gathering intelligence signals.

China maintains that the balloon had drifted off course while conducting weather research and that the United States overreacted by shooting it down on Saturday off the coast of South Carolina.

The FBI said Thursday that much of the balloon’s remains remained underwater and that analysis was still in its early stages. A senior US official briefed on the matter said the total amount of equipment recovered from the ocean’s surface was the size of a small car.

China had expressed «regret» last week when the balloon’s presence over the US mainland was made public, but its tone has deepened when Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to Beijing and US officials warned of possible actions against Chinese-linked entities. military.

Mao said on Thursday that the US claims about using the balloon for spying were part of his «information war» against China. He also said that the United States endangers China’s national security and undermines regional peace and stability by sending warships and planes near China for reconnaissance, and accused the United States of hypocrisy when it comes to espionage.

“The United States is the largest monitoring and reconnaissance country in the world,” he told a regular briefing. “It has been conducting intelligence activities around the world for a long time.”

White House officials have stressed the importance of maintaining communications with China, the world’s second-largest economy and with which the United States posted record trade in 2022.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that he did not view the balloon as a major security breach and did not regret waiting several days until it was above water to shoot it down.

“This thing was gigantic. What would happen if it fell and hit a school in a rural area? he told her in an interview with Noticias Telemundo.

Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the balloon’s incursion into US airspace illustrated that China had become «more aggressive abroad» but that he hoped the two countries could continue to work together on issues like the fight against drugs, climate change and global health «even in this difficult time.»

abigail williams contributed.