KENTFIELD, California/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday called Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator, adding that Xi was very embarrassed when a Chinese balloon was blown off course over the U.S. recently.
Biden made the remarks at a fundraiser in California a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Xi on a trip to China that was aimed at easing tensions between the two countries.
“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment in it was he didn’t know it was there,” Biden said in the fundraiser.
“That’s a great embarrassment for dictators. When they didn’t know what happened. That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was. It was blown off course,” Biden added.
A suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over U.S. airspace in February. That incident and exchanges of visits by U.S. and Taiwanese officials have recently magnified U.S.-China tensions.
Blinken and Xi on Monday agreed in their meeting to stabilize the intense rivalry between Washington and Beijing so it does not veer into conflict, but failed to produce any major breakthrough during a rare visit to China by the secretary of state.
They did agree to continue diplomatic engagement with more visits by U.S. officials in the coming weeks and months.
Biden himself said on Monday he thought relations between the two countries were on the right path, and he indicated that progress was made during Blinken’s trip.
Biden said on Tuesday that Xi had been concerned by the so-called Quad strategic security group, which includes Japan, Australia, India and the United States. The U.S. president said he previously told Xi the U.S. was not trying to encircle China with the Quad.
Later this week, Biden will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China is expected to be a topic of discussion between the two leaders.