The suspected Chinese balloon seen over Billings, Montana
The suspected Chinese balloon seen over Billings, MontanaChase Doak/via REUTERS

The Chinese spy balloon shot down by a US fighter jet over the Atlantic in February did not collect intelligence as it flew across the United States, the Pentagon said Thursday, according to AFP.

"It's been our assessment now that it did not collect while it was transiting the United States or overflying the United States," said Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder.

Ryder said the US "took steps to mitigate" intelligence collection by the balloon.

"Certainly the efforts we made contributed" to that, Ryder said, without further explanation.

The balloon flew over the United States from Alaska in the northwest to South Carolina in the east from late January to early February this year, crossing above sensitive military installations and prompting concerns Beijing was scooping up vital intelligence.

It was shot down on February 4 just off the South Carolina coast, and was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean by the US military, which has been studying its contents since.

China criticized the US for downing its surveillance balloon, saying it reserves the right for any necessary reaction to the incident.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken then cancelled a long-planned trip to China in February that had aimed to improve bilateral ties. Blinken made the trip earlier this month, meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At the time a US official said the balloon had multiple antennas including an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications.