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Trump, Xi Seek Win-Win Relations

While North Korea is the elephant in the room at Trump-Xi talks, Pyongyang pursues nuclear and missile programs at an unprecedented pace to expand its deterrence against US
Chinese president Xi Jinping (R) and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, on magazine covers in ChinaChinese president Xi Jinping (R) and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, on magazine covers in China
Disagreements over approaches to North Korea or bilateral trade could, if mishandled, destabilize northeast Asia or tank the global economy

US President Donald Trump predicted a “very great” relationship with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, as the pair met for the first time at his Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago, when cordiality replaced tough anti-China rhetoric.

Trump, in his signature red tie, warmly welcomed his Chinese counterpart Xi, decked out in contrasting blue, to what the US leader likes to call the “Winter White House” for a superpower summit in the sun, AFP reported.

Inside the luxurious resort, Trump waxed lyrical that it was a “great honor” to host the Chinese leader, breaking the ice with a joke about his own deal making prowess.

“We had a long discussion already. So far, I have gotten nothing. Absolutely nothing,” he said to laughs from the delegation.

“But I can see that, I think long-term, we are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it.”

This is the first time the two leaders meet, after a US election that featured frequent barbs at China’s “rape” of the US economy.

The open agenda and the personal setting for the 24-hour summit are designed to allow the leaders to freewheel and build a rapport, in what is the world’s most important relationship.

The Florida summit has been somewhat overshadowed by Trump’s decision to launch military action targeting the Syrian government.

Trump informed the Chinese leader personally of the missile strikes on an airbase in central Syria, a senior administration official told AFP.

 Peace Offerings

Amid concerns about security and public perceptions, Xi and his wife are not staying at Mar-a-Lago, but at a resort and spa a short drive down the palm-fringed coast that is, for now, watched by snipers, tactical units and a coastguard cutter.

The two leaders were joined Thursday evening by US first lady, Melania Trump.

Xi had arrived to the meeting with a gift basket of “tweetable deliverables”, sources say, peace offerings on Trump’s signature issues—trade and jobs—that he hopes will smooth over a relationship that began on shaky ground following disagreements over Taiwan.

Top of the list, according to a source briefed on Xi’s plans, will be a package of Chinese investments aimed at creating more than 700,000 American jobs—the number pledged to Trump by China’s regional rival Japan, during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s February Mar-a-Lago visit.

There may also be offers to further open China’s auto and agricultural markets, insiders say, and even some concessions on Chinese banks’ transactions with North Korea, a vital financial lifeline for the country.

In return, Xi hopes to get assurances from Trump on punitive tariffs and that an American arms sale to Taiwan will be delayed, at least until after a major Communist Party meeting later this year.

Trump’s position on democratically-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, has been a major irritant since the billionaire politician accepted a protocol-breaking phone call from the Taiwanese president after his election victory.

  High Stakes

The summit stakes, both domestic and international, are high. Disagreements over approaches to North Korea or bilateral trade could, if mishandled, destabilize northeast Asia or tank the global economy.

On the domestic political front, Xi is heading into a critical year. Ahead of a party congress that could cement his grip on power for years to come, he needs to show that he can deal with the US leader as an equal.

He “cannot afford to lose face while China aspires to be the new center of gravity for the world order,” China political analyst, Willy Lam, told AFP.

Meanwhile, Trump, who is reeling from legislative defeats, low approval ratings and unrelenting scandals, desperately needs a win.

On the US side, however, North Korea will likely top the agenda following Wednesday’s provocative missile launch.

The Trump White House worries Pyongyang is just months away from marrying nuclear and long-range missile technology and putting the west coast of the United States within striking distance.

While Beijing has condemned the missile tests, it has hesitated to take dramatic action against Pyongyang, fearing that the country’s collapse would generate a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.

 

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