Trump, China’s Xi meet in high-stakes sum­mit of world’s lead­ers.

North Korea, Tai­wan, trade on the line at meet­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s cal­cu­lated style will come face-to-face with Pres­i­dent Trump’s off-the-cuff ap­proach to diplo­macy Thurs­day when the two gather at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago re­sort in Florida for what could be the high­est stakes U.S.-China sum­mit in more than a decade.

Whether the two very dif­fer­ent lead­ers can make progress, cur­rent and former of­fi­cials say, will set the stage for ei­ther en­hanced co­op­er­a­tion or a melt­down be­tween Beijing and Washington on ev­ery­thing from North Korea’s nu­clear weapons and Tai­wanese sovereignty to in­ter­na­tional trade and ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes in the heav­ily traf­ficked wa­ters off China’s coasts.

Mr. Trump him­self has tweeted that the sum­mit will “be a very dif­fi­cult one” be­cause he won’t stand for a con­tin­u­a­tion of “mas­sive trade deficits” that China has racked up in re­cent years.

Mr. Trump, a sharp critic of Beijing on the cam­paign trail last year, is un­der pres­sure to fol­low through from his po­lit­i­cal base to make good on his rhetoric when he meets with Mr. Xi for the two-day sum­mit. Mr. Xi for his part has stepped up as an un­likely cham­pion of free mar­kets and open global trade as the new U.S. gov­ern­ment pur­sues its “Amer­ica First” agenda.

“Pres­i­dent Trump cam­paigned on ad­dress­ing trade deficits and un­fair Chi­nese trade prac­tices, and China is clearly in his sights,” My­ron Bril­liant, head of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, told the Associated Press.

But for all his crit­i­cisms, Mr. Trump also faces the chal­lenge of try­ing to find com­mon ground with Beijing on other fronts, most no­tably on North Korea.

U.S. of­fi­cials say Mr. Trump wants Beijing to do far more than it has so far to con­tain its hos­tile, eco­nom­i­cally de­pen­dent neigh­bor, a push that has eluded Washington for years while Py­ongyang has moved closer and closer to de­vel­op­ing nu­clear-tipped mis­siles ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the U.S. main­land.

Act­ing As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for East Asian and Pa­cific Af­fairs Su­san Thorn­ton said Wed­nes­day that the North Korea is­sue “has be­come very ur­gent,” al­though she seemed to ac­knowl­edge the prospect of quick progress is un­likely.

“We will be look­ing for help from China to in­crease the pres­sure,” Ms. Thorn­ton told re­porters.

In what an­a­lysts said was a mes­sage timed for both lead­ers, North Korea fired a bal­lis­tic missile into the wa­ters off its east coast on Wed­nes­day, in a re­minder of its abil­ity to send ten­sions soar­ing on the Korean penin­sula and through­out the re­gion.

An­a­lysts say Mr. Xi wants to fo­cus more on trade — and Mr. Trump’s threats to curb Chi­nese ex­ports to the U.S. — than on North Korea. But Beijing’s own pre­dic­tions for Mar-a-Lago have been at best scripted and vague.

Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Zheng Zeguang has said only that “both sides look for­ward to a suc­cess­ful meet­ing so that a cor­rect di­rec­tion can be set for the growth of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.”

It is pos­si­ble that po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments inside China could shape Mr. Xi’s ap­proach, as he doesn’t want a dis­tract­ing con­fronta­tion with Mr. Trump ahead of cru­cial lead­er­ship changes ex­pected in Beijing this fall, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis cir­cu­lated this week by the Cen­ter for Strate­gic In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (CSIS) in Washington. The Chi­nese pres­i­dent may be will­ing to hand Mr. Trump a small but sym­bolic vic­tory on trade, as long as the sum­mit does not ap­pear to cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant cri­sis in the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

The CSIS anal­y­sis said the out­come of the Mar-a-Lago meet­ing may hinge on ba­sic chem­istry be­tween Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi.

The Chi­nese pres­i­dent will likely seek a joint an­nounce­ment of “broad prin­ci­ples that will gov­ern bi­lat­eral re­la­tions,” said the anal­y­sis, led by Vic­tor Cha, who served as an ad­viser on North Korea to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

“It is not ev­i­dent, how­ever, that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is ei­ther ready or in­clined to this ap­proach, par­tic­u­larly given the pres­i­dent’s tweet about the sum­mit,” the anal­y­sis said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

As Pres­i­dent Trump pre­pares to host his Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Xi Jin­ping, a re­ver­sal has emerged: The U.S. leader is seen as a wild card, skep­ti­cal of trade deals.

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