By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Biden made the remarks 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 at a fundraiser in California.
“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 US airspace in February. That incident and exchanges of visits by US and Taiwanese officials have recenly magnified US-China tensions.
Biden also said that China “has real economic difficulties.”
China’s economy stumbled in May with industrial output and retail sales growth missing forecasts, adding to expectations that Beijing will need to do more to shore up a shaky post-pandemic recovery.
The World Bank earlier this month forecast US growth for 2023 at 1.1%, more than double the 0.5% forecast in January, while China’s growth is expected to climb to 5.6%, compared to a 4.3% forecast in January.
Blinken and Xi on Monday agreed in their meeting to stabilise the intense rivalry between Washington and Beijing so it did not veer into conflict, but failed to produce any breakthrough during a rare visit to China by the secretary of state.
They did agree to continue diplomatic engagement with more visits by US officials in the coming weeks and months.
Biden 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 US president said he previously told Xi the US was not trying to encircle China with the Quad.
“He called me and told me not to do that because it was putting him in a bind,” Biden said.
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.