Washington — The Chinese balloon that was shot down by the United States military over U.S. territorial waters at the beginning of February had not been collecting intelligence information, according to the Pentagon.
"As you heard at the time, we were aware that [the balloon] had intelligence collection capabilities," Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said during a press conference on Thursday, when questioned by a reporter regarding the aircraft.
"But it was our [...] and it has been our assessment now that it did not collect while it was transiting the United States or over-flying the United States," Ryder added.
He went on to say that at the time Washington had also "steps - steps to mitigate the potential collection efforts of that balloon," without providing further details.
Relations between Washington and Beijing had already been tense when the U.S. military detected what U.S. officials at the time suspected was a Chinese spy balloon in the country's airspace.
The U.S. Air Force shot down the balloon on February 4 off the coast of the state of South Carolina after it had hovered over the US mainland for days.
Washington accused China of espionage, a charge which Beijing rejected.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken then cancelled a trip to Beijing over the balloon affair but did eventually travel to China in June. During Blinken's visit to Beijing, both sides expressed their intention to stabilize troubled relations.
A short time later, however, a statement by U.S. President Joe Biden, in which he compared Chinese President Xi Jinping to a "dictator," caused new irritation.
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