US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier wrapped the latest iteration of diplomatic talks with Chinese officials, marking the first such talks in China since 2018. The visit was initially scheduled for February but was postponed once US-China relations soured after the downing of a commercial Chinese balloon that blew off course.
Meanwhile, the US President Joe Biden referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “dictator” on Tuesday during a fundraising dinner in California amid already uneasy US-China relations.
The comments were made by Biden while speaking to the downed Chinese balloon fallout that unfolded in February and continued to steal headlines as additional balloon-like objects began to emerge near American skies.
“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. “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 continued, before noting in follow-up remarks that China was also undergoing “real economic difficulties.”
At the height of the balloon incident, China explained that the suspected surveillance balloon was in fact a high-altitude civilian scientific balloon that was blown off course.
Alarms were near instantly triggered after news broke on the development, more so after it was detailed that the balloon was spotted over the US state of Montana – the location of many of the US’ nuclear missile silos.
By February 4, the balloon was shot down on Biden’s orders by an F-22 Raptor off the coast of South Carolina. Days later, additional objects were tracked but were reported to have no links to China.
Biden’s latest commentary comes just a day after Xi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed to ease off and remedy US-China tensions that have for months remained on shaky ground.
Incidentally, it also follows unconfirmed Tuesday reports by US media that China is engaged in so-called “advanced” talks to build a training base in Cuba, after a spate of American, Cuban and Chinese officials earlier rejected reports that Beijing and Havana were taking part in building a spy base.