President Joe Biden called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator” while speaking at a political fundraiser in California. The comment came only a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned from a trip to Beijing.

Tensions between the United States and China are already running high, following the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon found floating in American airspace in January, which the Department of Defense brought down using fighter jets.

China has since claimed that the balloon was a civilian airship that had accidentally veered off course. Biden refuted this statement on Tuesday,

“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot down that balloon down with two boxcars of full spy equipment in it is because he didn’t know it was there… That’s what’s a great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened,” said Biden.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quick to condemn Biden’s comment, saying it was “open political provocation.”

“The remarks seriously contradict basic facts, seriously violate diplomatic etiquette, and seriously infringe on China’s political dignity,” said Mao in a statement.

In addition, Xi has recently expressed concern over Biden’s engagement with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes America, India, Australia and Japan. The four world powers have been working closely together to ensure a counterweight against China, should it be needed. Furthermore, it is a strategy employed by the U.S. to elevate its outreach in the South Pacific.

In his speech, Biden also praised Blinken for being the first U.S. secretary to visit Beijing in five years. Blinken was present in two days worth of meetings, which included Xi, and resulted in agreements from both sides about future diplomatic engagements.

“We’re not going to have successes on every issue between us on any given day,” said Blinken at a conference in Beijing, “but in a whole variety of areas, on the terms that we set for this trip, we have made progress and we are moving forward.”

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