"(Xi) is a friend of mine, I have great respect for him," Trump said in France. "We have gotten to know each other very well. A great leader, he is a very talented man. ... He loves China. He wants to do what is right for China."
But in a statement on Thursday, McCain slammed the Chinese government's treatment of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights advocate. Liu had been suffering from liver cancer and died of multiple organ failure, local authorities announced Thursday.
Liu was granted medical parole in June after being diagnosed with liver cancer in prison. The Beijing government refused to let him seek treatment overseas despite Liu's wishes and international pressure. Chinese authorities eventually allowed doctors from Germany and the United States to treat him.
"The death of Liu Xiaobo in a Chinese prison represents an egregious violation of the fundamental human rights for which Dr. Liu spent his life fighting," McCain said in a statement. "As he suffered from late-term liver cancer in prison, the Chinese government's delay in treatment was the last barbaric violation of Dr. Liu's human rights."
McCain continued: "China has again ignored the international community in its inhumane treatment of prisoners of conscience."
Liu spent more than a decade behind bars in China for his advocacy of democracy, including taking part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
The White House called Liu a "political prisoner" in a statement on his death, released after Trump's remarks.
"President Donald J. Trump was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prominent Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement. "The President's heartfelt condolences go out to Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, and his family and friends. A poet, scholar and courageous advocate, Liu Xiaobo dedicated his life to the pursuit of democracy and liberty. "
Earlier Thursday in France, the President said he wants China -- and Xi -- to "do a little bit more" when it comes to dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
"We have asked him for some assistance with respect for North Korea. Probably, he could do a little bit more but we will find out," Trump said.