China says it reserves right to respond to downing of surveillance balloon

The balloon's flight over the U.S. added tension to the U.S.-China relationship.

A massive Chinese surveillance balloon that moved across the continental U.S. this week has been shot down.

The Pentagon has confirmed the balloon was being used for surveillance, disputing China's claim that it was a civilian aircraft used for meteorological purposes. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the balloon didn't pose a physical or military threat, and once it was detected, the U.S. took steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.

The FBI is expected to take custody of any recovered components of the balloon and ship them to its lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis and intelligence gathering, a senior government official told ABC News.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to China as the balloon's presence over the continental U.S. added new tension to the U.S.-China relationship. Blinken called the balloon a "clear violation" of U.S. sovereignty and international law.


China has fleet of surveillance balloons, senior defense official says

China has a fleet of these types of surveillance balloons, according to a senior defense official, including the one that was spotted flying over Venezuela and Colombia this week.

"These balloons are all part of a [People's Republic of China] fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, which have also violated the sovereignty of other countries. These kinds of activities are often undertaken at the direction of the People's Liberation Army or PLA," the official said. "Over the past several years, Chinese balloons have previously been spotted over countries across five continents, including in East Asia, South Asia and Europe.”

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Residents warned not to touch balloon debris

Authorities in the Myrtle Beach area are advising residents not to touch debris if it washes up on shore and to contact police dispatch if they see any.

"Debris should not be touched, moved, or removed," the Horry County Police Department said on social media.

The North Myrtle Beach Police Department also advised residents to contact law enforcement if they see any "stray pieces" of the balloon wash ashore.

-ABC News' Matt Foster

Navy, Coast Guard searching for debris off Carolina coast

A senior military official said multiple Navy and Coast Guard vessels are in the area now establishing a security perimeter and searching for debris on the water "to ensure the safety of U.S. civilians."

A Navy salvage vessel will be on scene within a couple of days, according to the official.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler

Balloon had 'intelligence value,' official says

A senior U.S. defense official gave more details about the takedown, stating the balloon was hit at approximately 2:39 p.m. by a single F-22 fighter jet firing a single AIM-9X air-to-air missile.

"Fighter aircraft from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fired a single missile into the balloon, causing it to crash into the ocean," the official said.

The defense official said there was value in waiting to shoot down the balloon aside from just the safety of people on the ground, and indicated it had intelligence value to the U.S.

"The surveillance balloon's overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us. I can't go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable," the official said.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler