The State Department revealed Thursday that the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down on Saturday was carrying equipment to monitor private communications, providing the first concrete evidence of the airship's espionage purpose.

According to a State Department spokeswoman, the Pentagon used high-altitude U-2 spy planes to assess the equipment dangling from the 200-foot balloon and discovered that it could be used for "signals intelligence collecting operations."

Because of China's diplomatic rift brought on by the spy balloon's entry into the country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken decided to postpone his trip to Beijing.

Members of Congress expressed their displeasure at the occurrence on Capitol Hill and demanded an explanation from the Biden administration. 

The State and Defense Departments were expected to give a classified briefing to members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

In an effort to save fatalities and property damage, the Pentagon off the coast of South Carolina waited until the balloon crossed over land before shooting it down. 

From the scene, the items were being moved to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for inspection. The majority of the material is still below, according to the officials, who described the debris field as a "large-scale scene." Teams have so far managed to remove some wiring and pieces of the balloon's canopy from the ocean's surface.

Ryder acknowledged that during the Trump and Biden administrations, identical Chinese balloons crossed U.S. land on four separate times, but claimed that the U.S. did not immediately recognise the balloons as spy planes until after doing "subsequent intelligence analysis." 

The Pentagon spokesman also noted the size and capability variations among Chinese surveillance balloons, but he declined to comment on the potential nature of the intelligence that these balloons—including the one that was shot down on Saturday—might be gathering.