Nov. 9 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump said in Beijing Thursday that the United States aims to change its trade relationship with China, calling it "very one-sided and unfair."
The president made the remarks after touring the Chinese capital earlier with Beijing leader Xi Jinping.
"The United States really has to change its policies because they've gotten so far behind on trade with China and frankly many other countries," Trump said.
While Trump criticized what he described as a trade imbalance in China's favor, he told Xi that he doesn't blame him for the situation.
"I have great respect for you for that because you represent China. But it's too bad past administrations allowed it to get so far out of kilter. But we'll make it fair and it'll be tremendous for both of us," Trump said.
Later, Trump said he gives China "great credit" for the current trade deal between the two countries.
"Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?" he asked.
U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said Trump believes China is just pursuing its own self-interests
"I think what he's saying is that China is pursuing its own national interests and you can't blame any country for doing that," Branstad said. "We just have to do a better job of doing that for the United States of America."
Trump has long criticized the trade status between the United States and China as being one-sided. As a presidential candidate, he used stronger language to describe the imbalance.
"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing," Trump said in May 2016.
Like his remarks in Beijing Thursday, Trump then also placed the blame on U.S. leaders instead of China.
"China's great. No problem. I'm not angry with China," he said at the time. "And I'm not angry at Japan. And I'm not angry at Mexico. I'm not angry at anybody. I'm angry at our leaders, because they are grossly incompetent and they shouldn't have ever been elected to do this job."