Trump, Xi be­gin high-stakes talks

North Korea’s weapons, trade deficit, ‘one-China pol­icy’ on agenda

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping be­gan high-stakes talks in Florida fac­ing each other across a din­ner table Thurs­day, con­nect­ing on a per­sonal level be­fore get­ting down to tense dis­cus­sions about trade and the nu­clear threat from North Korea.

The lead­ers of the world’s two largest economies dined with their wives at Mr. Trump’s Mara-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, where the meet­ing will con­tinue Fri­day.

Mr. Trump headed into the talks with the same get-tough rhetoric on trade he used on the cam­paign trail, and he’s un­der pres­sure to de­liver the same blunt mes­sage to Mr. Xi, de­spite the risk of an­ger­ing a coun­try that holds a large por­tion of U.S. debt.

“We have been treated un­fairly and have made ter­ri­ble trade deals with China for many, many years. That’s one of the things we are go­ing to be talk­ing about,” Mr. Trump told re­porters aboard Air Force One en route to Florida.

The White House has dis­cour­aged ex­pec­ta­tions for ma­jor break­throughs on trade, although the pres­i­dent has made shrink­ing the huge trade deficit with China a top pri­or­ity.

Still, the blue-col­lar vot­ers who helped to put Mr. Trump in the White House will be look­ing for him to squeeze trade con­ces­sions out of Mr. Xi.

It’s a tall or­der, and the pres­i­dent’s Demo­cratic foes al­ready were call­ing the sum­mit a fail­ure.

“De­spite Trump promis­ing vot­ers that he would stand up to China and that they would agree to his de­mands or face the con­se­quences, so far he has failed to make good on two key steps he promised to take im­me­di­ately upon tak­ing office: De­clare China a cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tor and im­pose a tar­iff on Chi­nese im­ports,” said Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee spokes­woman Adri­enne Wat­son.

“What other prom­ises will he back down from this week­end af­ter 13 weeks on the job?” she asked.

Mr. Trump also promised to press Mr. Xi on rein­ing in un­pre­dictable, nu­clear-armed North Korea, which is work­ing on an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile ca­pa­ble of hit­ting the U.S.

“I think China will be step­ping up,” Mr. Trump said of China’s in­flu­ence over North Korea, echo­ing an un­re­al­ized goal of many for­mer U.S. pres­i­dents.

The meet­ings take places against a back­drop of ris­ing ten­sion across the globe, in­clud­ing North Korean mis­sile tests and a deadly chem­i­cal weapon at­tack in Syria.

The Chi­nese pres­i­dent, whose re­served and cal­cu­lat­ing style con­trasts sharply with Mr. Trump’s brash per­sona, will be push­ing his own agenda, in­clud­ing Beijing’s in­ter­est in ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes in the heav­ily traf­ficked wa­ters off China’s coasts.

Mr. Xi also will be look­ing for Mr. Trump to re­it­er­ate his com­mit­ment to the “one-China pol­icy,” which rec­og­nizes demo­cratic Tai­wan as a part of com­mu­nist China, af­ter Mr. Trump sent mixed mes­sages about af­ter the elec­tion.

“En­sur­ing Pres­i­dent Xi does not lose face is a top pri­or­ity for China,” a Chi­nese of­fi­cial told Reuters.

Mr. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, ar­rived in a black limou­sine, a mil­i­tary color guard lin­ing the club’s drive­way. They were greeted at the door by Mr. Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump.

About 30 peo­ple at­tended the for­mal din­ner at Mar-a-Lago, in­clud­ing about a dozen dig­ni­taries from the U.S. and China.

The menu of­fered an option of pan-seared Dover sole with cham­pagne sauce or dry-aged prime New York strip steak. Dessert op­tions were choco­late cake with vanilla sauce and dark choco­late sor­bet, or a sor­bet trio of le­mon, mango and rasp­berry.

U.S. of­fi­cials at the din­ner in­cluded Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, White House se­nior ad­viser Jared Kush­ner, White House ad­viser Ivanka Trump and White House chief strate­gist Stephen K. Ban­non.

Mr. Tiller­son, who greeted Mr. Xi at the air­port, said that Mr. Trump would pur­sue his Amer­i­cafirst agenda at the meet­ings.

“We will pur­sue eco­nomic en­gage­ment with China that pri­or­i­tizes the eco­nomic well-be­ing of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. We’re also look­ing to make progress with China on ar­eas of for­eign pol­icy. Those that serve our in­ter­est as well as the re­gions,” he said.

Mr. Tiller­son said the ad­min­is­tra­tion “re­mains ded­i­cated to work­ing with China to­ward mu­tual goals of re­spect, se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity. As we do so, we will not shy away from frank dis­cus­sions which are nec­es­sary to nar­row our dif­fer­ences.”

The meet­ings Fri­day at Mar-a-Lago will be capped by a work­ing lunch, ac­cord­ing to the White House.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump met with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in Palm Beach, Florida. Blue-col­lar vot­ers are pres­sur­ing Mr. Trump to de­liver on his trade deals.

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