The Chinese government said the downing of the “civilian” aircraft was an “excessive reaction,” and that it “retains the right to respond further.”

Here’s the latest on the balloon that was downed.

The United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon with a missile on Saturday after it had spent the last week traversing the country. The downing of the balloon was an explosive end to a drama that had caused a diplomatic crisis between the world’s two great powers.

President Biden ordered the U.S. military to shoot the surveillance craft down after it had meandered across the United States for about a week.

Here’s the latest:

  • The Chinese foreign ministry declared its “strong discontent and protest” at Washington’s decision to shoot down the balloon, claiming that it was a civilian aircraft that had accidentally hovered into the United States. “China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
  • A senior official in the Biden Administration responded that the aircraft was in fact a surveillance balloon that was purposely flown over sensitive military sites in the United States and Canada. The official said the Beijing government could control the balloon, one in a fleet of similar aircraft the Chinese have deployed in recent years for surveillance operations.
  • Two fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base attacked the balloon at 2:39 p.m., some six miles off the coast of South Carolina. One of the F-22 fighters fired a Sidewinder air-to-air missile, downing the balloon, which was flying at an altitude of between 60,000 and 65,000 feet.
  • The debris fell into 47 feet of water, and the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard were trying to recover it, officials said
  • Republicans were quick to criticize the Biden administration, saying the president had waited too long to shoot down the balloon and had shown weakness in his handling of the crisis. Mr. Biden and his aides argued the downing the balloon over populated areas would have created a dangerous rain of debris. In addition, they have said the United States picked up valuable intelligence monitoring the balloon’s equipment before it was destroyed.

China says the U.S. overreacted and warns Beijing may respond.

President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing last month, in a photo released by a Chinese news agency. He appeared intent on stabilizing ties with President Biden when the two leaders met in November.Credit...Li Xueren/Xinhua, via Associated Press

In its first official public reaction to the shooting down of the balloon, China on Sunday condemned the step as an overreaction by the United States and warned that it could take respond.

Since the Biden administration confirmed on Thursday that the Chinese balloon was floating over the United States, including Montana with its 150 or so intercontinental ballistic missile silos, the balloon has become another irritant in already tense ties between Beijing and Washington. The secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, pulled out of a planned trip to Beijing this week that had been intended to help manage those tensions.

As the furor grew, Beijing insisted that the balloon was a civilian airship conducting research, including meteorological monitoring, and had been blown into the United States inadvertently. In its response to the downing of the balloon, the Chinese foreign ministry repeated that position and issued the warning about a potential response. Now the big question is what that response may be — limited and symbolic, or something more serious?

During recent years, relations between Beijing and Washington — long prone to tensions — have growing increasingly volatile over trade, technology, human rights issues and the future of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing says is its own territory. The Trump administration and then the Biden administration have taken steps to ban Chinese access to advanced technology, especially cutting-edge semiconductors. China has stepped up its intimidating military activities around Taiwan, and held large exercises close to the island after Nancy Pelosi, then the speaker of the House of Representatives, visited in August.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, had appeared intent on stabilizing ties with President Biden when the two leaders met in Bali in November, and Mr. Blinken’s visit to Beijing — now called off — was a step in those efforts. But now relations may go into another dip, at least for now. Tensions over Taiwan have been bubbling up again. Ms. Pelosi’s successor as speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has said he may also visit Taiwan, which Beijing would be sure to condemn as undermining its claim over the island.

“For the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further.”

The final sentence suggests that China may characterize the balloon as being operated by, or at least involving, a business or other agency removed from the government.

But the United States rejected China’s claim, with a senior administration official saying that China has built a fleet of spy balloons. The official added that such balloons have been spotted over countries across five continents.