Xi arrives in US for first meeting with Trump

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By ANN News Desk (Asia)

PALM BEACH, United States (China Daily/ANN News Desk) - US President Donald Trump's first meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is expected to chart the course of bilateral ties in a new era but North Korea's missile tests have cast a shadow over the process.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in this southeastern US coastal town on Thursday for the first meeting with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, that is expected to chart the course of bilateral ties in a new era.

During his two-day stay in the Sunshine State of Florida, Xi will hold talks with Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort, which the US leaders calls "the Southern White House," to exchange views on bilateral ties and major regional and global issues of common concern, China Daily reported quoting Xinhua.

The meeting will be of “great significance to charting China-US relationship in a new era, advancing the development of bilateral ties in a healthy and stable way from a new starting point, and promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the world", said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang.

The issue of North Korea and its recent missile tests have cast a shadow over the meet. Trump has said he intends to urge Xi to increase pressure on North Korea during their meeting.

“We have a big problem,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Jordanian King Abdullah II at the White House, referring to North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un, the Korea Herald reported.

We have somebody that is not doing the right thing. And that’s going to be my responsibility. But I’ll tell you, that responsibility could have been made a lot easier if it was handled years ago.”

Trump has been ratcheting up pressure on China over North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and the two-day gathering is set to pose an early test of the two countries’ diplomacy.

Xi and Trump could also face off over China’s escalating economic retaliation against South Korea over the ongoing deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile assets , territorial disputes in the South China Sea, trade and other bilateral, regional and global issues.

Pyongyang has in recent months carried out a series of missile and engine tests, with satellite imagery pointing to signs of a fresh underground detonation. In the latest provocation, it fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea on Wednesday, though it appears to have failed.

While carrying out a North Korea policy review, Washington has displayed its willingness to sanction more Chinese companies dealing with North Korea, and raised the possibility of military action as one of its options.

Trump has indicated he will use trade as leverage to press Beijing to play a greater role in containing the Kim Jong-un regime’s nuclear and missile programme. He has also called North Korea a “humanity problem” and warned that the US is ready to tackle it on its own if China does not help.

In a phone call with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, Trump said that “all options are on the table” and called the North’s newest missile launch a “dangerous provocation and grave security threat”, Abe told reporters.

Matt Pottinger, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, called secondary sanctions a “very much live” question for the summit, saying China has the ability to squeeze the North “in a way that no other single country can”.

“We’d like to see China working closely with the US to address the menace emanating from North Korea, their weapons programs, the provocations that we’ve seen every week, missile launches, including one that we had not too many hours ago,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

“I think that North Korea long ago ceased to be a strategic asset for China. It is now quite clearly a strategic liability and it is one that is having an impact on the region. It is one that has the potential to destabilise not only the peninsula, but really the region as well.”

During their telephone talks on Thursday, Abe and Trump agreed that China’s suspension of coal imports from North Korea is an insufficient response to Pyongyang, following its latest launch of a ballistic missile, said a report in Japan News.

The two leaders confirmed that China has influence over North Korea and thus has a significant role to play. In February, China announced it was halting coal imports from North Korea based on a sanctions resolution passed by the UN Security Council. However, Abe and Trump shared the view that the move is not enough.

South Korea too has intensified diplomatic efforts against North Korea. Seoul’s National Security Office chief Kim Kwan-jin and US National Security Adviser H R McMaster held a phone conversation early on Thursday, condemning Pyongyang’s ongoing missile liftoffs and reaffirming the Thaad stationing plan.