Kirby on Putin-Xi hug: ‘That’s nice for them’

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby weighed in on footage of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping embracing Friday in Beijing.

“That’s nice for them,” Kirby told reporters when asked for a reaction to the hug between the two leaders.

Kirby said it’s “no surprise” that Xi and Putin “continue to try to develop this burgeoning relationship,” but he noted the pair haven’t worked together long and that officials in both governments “aren’t necessarily all that trustful” of each other.

“What they have in common is a desire to challenge the international rules-based order, challenge the network of alliances and partnerships that the United States enjoys,” Kirby said, adding “and to try to look for ways to bolster each other’s national security interests as well.”

Xi welcomed Putin at a summit this week in China amid Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine — and as efforts to expand economic and military ties between Moscow and Beijing have exacerbated tensions with the West.

Putin said his talks with Xi were “substantive” as he concluded the two-day trip, according to The Associated Press. China has claimed a neutral stance in Moscow’s war with Ukraine, but it has continued to support Russia with nonlethal assistance.

Kirby said Friday the U.S. wasn’t “necessarily surprised” by the Putin-Xi meeting, but the administration was nonetheless “concerned” and “watching closely” as the two leaders’ relationship develops.

“I’m not good at talking about personal human bodily affection one way or the other, so I think I’ll leave it to these two gents to talk about why they thought it was good to hug one another,” Kirby said when pressed about the hug headlines.

“I’ll just tell you that we take seriously the challenges that both countries represent,” he added. “And we take seriously this burgeoning relationship between the two.”

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