According to three U.S. officials familiar with preliminary findings by the FBI, the suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States earlier this year used commercially available, off-the-shelf technology that was American-made. The Biden administration initially suspected that the balloon could be carrying U.S.-made equipment or parts shortly after it was detected. The administration sent aircraft to investigate and collect photographic evidence. Analysis of the debris recovered after the balloon was shot down by the U.S. military on February 4 confirmed these suspicions.
The balloon was tracked for eight days by the Biden administration as it traveled across Alaska, Canada, and the continental U.S., including over sensitive military sites, before it was taken down by a fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina. The results of the analysis conducted by the FBI and other defense and intelligence agencies have not yet been publicly released.
This incident further strained the relations between the United States and China and resulted in Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponing a planned trip to Beijing until this month. China maintains that the balloon was a civilian airship that had strayed off course while conducting meteorological research, and it accuses the U.S. of overreacting by shooting it down. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, stated in a regular briefing in Beijing that the unmanned civilian airship drifting over the United States was an accidental incident caused by force majeure, and the claim that it was a spy balloon or gathering intelligence is a complete smear against China.