US President Joe Biden referred to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a dictator on Tuesday at a fundraising event in California.
Biden said Xi was embarrassed over recent tensions surrounding a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had been blown off course over the US.
“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 is he didn’t know it was there. No, I’m serious. That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened,” he said.
On Feb. 4, an F-22 fighter jet downed the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon on orders from Biden by firing a heat-seeking missile at it while it was floating off the coast of South Carolina.
"That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was," said Biden, adding that "when it got shot down, (Xi) was very embarrassed and he denied it was even there.”
His remarks came a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded talks in Beijing with Xi and other senior Chinese officials, with Biden saying he did "a good job."
The US and China agreed to stabilize their relations and keep communication channels open to avoid an all-out conflict between the two nations, according to multiple outlets.
In addition, Biden said Monday that relations between the US and China are on the "right trail," suggesting that progress had been made during Blinken’s trip.
"I think we're on the trail to making sure that we're going to be able to do both -- have a safer world because America’s engaging in a way that it hasn’t in the past…as well as making sure that we have an economy that benefits everyone," he said.
Relations between the US and China deteriorated during the Trump administration over a trade war and have since remained tense due to Beijing’s assertive claims over Taiwan and the alleged Chinese spy balloon over the US.