Trump accepts Xi's invitation to visit China this year

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 07.04.2017 22:38
Updated 07.04.2017 22:39

Chinese state media said U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from his Chinese counterpart to visit China later this year. The official Xinhua News Agency reported late Thursday that Trump will travel to China at an "early date" in 2017 but gave no details.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first meeting at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. During last year's election campaign and afterward, Trump talked tough about extracting better trade deals out of China and pressuring Beijing to do more to deter North Korea's nuclear program.

Trump joked at a formal dinner with Xi on Thursday that he had "gotten nothing" in long talks with the Chinese president but said they had developed a friendly rapport.

North Korea was a top priority for Trump in the meetings with Xi. The American president told reporters traveling with him to Florida that he thinks China will "want to be stepping up" in trying to deter North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

While Trump would not say what he wants China to do specifically, he suggested there was a link between "terrible" trade agreements the U.S. has made with China and Pyongyang's provocations. He said the two issues "really do mix."

Trump has said the U.S. will act alone if China doesn't exert more pressure on North Korea. The missile strikes on Syria bring more weight to that statement.

Both as a candidate and president, Trump has taken an aggressive posture toward China, labeling Beijing a "tremendous problem" and arguing that lopsided trade deals with China shortchange American businesses and workers. Last week, the president predicted in a tweet that his meeting with Xi would be "very difficult."

He also last week signed a pair of executive orders focused on reducing the U.S. trade deficit, an apparent shot at China, which accounted for the vast bulk — $347 billion — of last year's $502 billion trade deficit.

For his part, Xi was expected to seek assurances that Trump will not interfere in the territorial dispute over the South China Sea or question the "One China" policy by reaching out to Taiwan's leader again, as Trump did during the transition.

Meanwhile, a Chinese fighter plane has been spotted on a Chinese-held island in the South China Sea, the first such sighting in a year and the first since U.S. President Trump took office, a U.S. think tank reported on Thursday.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the J-11 fighter was visible in a satellite image taken on March 29 of Woody Island in the Paracel island chain.

News of the sighting came as Trump was in Florida for meetings with China's President Xi Jinping at which he was expected to air U.S. concerns about China's pursuit of territory and militarization of outposts in the South China Sea.

The Florida summit was somewhat overshadowed by Trump's decision to launch military action targeting the Syrian regime, in response to an apparent chemical attack. Trump informed the Chinese leader personally of the missile strikes on an air base in central Syria, a senior administration official told AFP.

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