President Joe Biden called Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator on Tuesday when speaking about a spy balloon that the U.S. shot down in February.
“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,” Biden said in remarks at a campaign event in Kentfield, Calif., according to a White House pool report. “That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened.”
Military reports about an unidentified Chinese surveillance balloon traversing continental U.S. made headlines at the beginning of February, sparking bipartisan outrage and concern about foreign intrusion into American airspace. A few days later, an American fighter jet shot the balloon down off the coast of the Carolinas.
“It was blown off course up through Alaska and then down through the United States and he didn’t know about it,” Biden said about the balloon’s path. Biden didn’t specify why he thought was the case.
Biden’s comments come on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China, where he met with Xi on Monday. Blinken’s trip was delayed from February because of the spy balloon incident. The two countries have expressed an intention to continue dialogue amid several ongoing political concerns, including the status of Taiwan and China’s role in the American opioid epidemic.
In comments during his trip, Blinken remarked that the two countries remained far apart, but both held a desire to maintain a meaningful relationship. “The United States is committed to doing that,” he said.