(WASHINGTON) -- A State Department official said Thursday that the Biden administration is looking into "taking action" against China for the surveillance balloons sent over U.S. territory.
After shooting down what the U.S said was a Chinese spy balloon that traversed the U.S., the official said the administration is weighing actions to reprimand Beijing for the incursion into American airspace as well as "broader efforts to expose and address" its surveillance activities that threaten national security.
The official added that the department was specifically considering measures against Chinese entities linked to its military that supported the balloon's operations.
Arguing that the U.S. had sent a "clear message" to Beijing by downing the aircraft, the official said China's attempts to excuse the balloon's flight path were extremely muddled, asserting that Beijing was caught red-handed.
"It's clear that they have been scrambling to explain why they violated U.S. sovereignty and still have no plausible explanation -- and have found themselves on their heels," the official said, adding that China's surveillance program "will only continue to be exposed," making it more difficult for Beijing to use it for intelligence gathering.
The comments come as all members of Congress were getting classified briefings on the balloon and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was set to testify on U.S.-China relations before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The House also voted unanimously 419-0 Thursday to formally condemn China for its use of a surveillance balloon over the U.S.
"Let's stand together against this common enemy that we have," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said moments before the vote. "Our enemy is not each other. Our enemy are foreign enemy nations like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. China being the largest foreign state adversary, the biggest threat long-term to the national security interests of the United States."
Deputy Secretary Sherman testified the the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that China is the only competitor with the "intent and means to reshape the international order."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday revealed that the U.S. assesses the alleged Chinese spy balloon shot down over the weekend was part of an expansive surveillance program aimed at gathering intelligence from targets around the globe.
According to the official, flybys of the balloon conducted by high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft last week revealed that it was "clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons."
"It had multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications. It was equipped with solar panels large enough to produce the requisite power to operate multiple active intelligence collection sensors," they said.
The official confirmed that the U.S. assesses that China has overflown surveillance balloons above 40 countries, which ABC News and other outlets have previously reported.
Administration officials also revealed more information on China's prior balloon operations targeting the U.S. on Thursday. In a television interview, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the aircraft had been detected over parts of Florida and Texas.
A senior U.S. official previously told ABC Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz that incursions into American airspace had also taken place over Hawaii and off the coast of the continental U.S. -- specifically near Coronado, California, and Norfolk, Virginia -- where two of the nation's largest naval bases are located.
On Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder disclosed that China had conducted four balloon surveillance missions over "sensitive sites" within U.S. territory during recent years, but did not disclose exactly where or when the incidents occurred.
While administration officials have defended its decision to allow the balloon spotted last week to make its way across the country before shooting it down off the coast of South Carolina, Austin said on Thursday that steps were taken to shield information on U.S. nuclear capabilities.
"All of our strategic assets we made sure were buttoned down, and movement was limited, and communications were limited so that we didn't expose any capability unnecessarily," he said.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday has not spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping since the US discovered and shot down the spy balloon -- dismissing the notion the situation would make the relationship worse.
Asked in an interview with Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour whether U.S.-China relations had "taken a big hit," Biden responded, "no."
"I haven't talked to him during this," he said.
"The idea shooting down a balloon that's gathering information over America, and that breaks -- makes relations worse? Look, I made it real clear to Xi Jinping that we're going to compete fully with China, but we're not - we're not looking for conflict. And that's been the case so far," Biden said.
ABC News' Lauren Peller, Luis Martinez, Matt Seyler and Justin Gomez contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.