US President Donald Trump declared on Friday that he has developed an “outstanding” relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a summit between the two leaders, noting the “tremendous progress” achieved in American ties with China.
Trump ditched his trademark anti-China bombast, hailing an “outstanding” relationship with his counterpart at the end of a superpower summit overshadowed by events in Syria.
“We have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China,” Trump said effusively at the close of a high-stakes but studiously familiar first meeting between the pair at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The friendly tone was a far cry from Trump’s acerbic campaign denouncements about China’s “rape” of the US economy and his vow to punish Beijing with punitive tariffs.
Xi reciprocated Trump’s warm words, saying the summit had “uniquely important significance” and thanking Trump for a warm reception.
Beijing’s most powerful leader in decades also invited the neophyte US president on a coveted state visit to China later in the year. Trump accepted, with a date yet to be determined.
We “arrived at many common understandings,” Xi added, “the most important being deepening our friendship and building a kind of trust.”
“Both the atmosphere and the chemistry between the two leaders was positive, the posture between the two really set the tone,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“All of us are feeling very good about the results of this summit.”
The start of the meeting came on a night of high drama as Trump not only met his nearest peer in economic world power for the first time, but also launched his first military strike on a state target.
Trump informed the Chinese leader personally of the strike as the 59 Tomahawk missiles were winding their way to the Shayrat airbase.
Although China is not implicated in the Syrian war, Trump’s actions resonate widely, not least in the debate over how to tackle North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
China and the United States agree Pyongyang’s programs are a serious problem, but have not seen eye-to-eye on how to respond.
The swift action in Syria could be interpreted as a signal especially to defiant nuclear-armed North Korea – and by extension, its ally China – as well as other countries like Iran and Russia of Trump’s willingness to use military force. Pyongyang is developing missiles capable of hitting the United States.
Tillerson said Xi agreed with Trump that North Korea’s nuclear advances had reached a “very serious stage.”
He said Trump also raised US concerns about China’s activities in the South China Sea. Beijing is building and fortifying islands in pursuit of expansive territorial claims in the strategic waterway.
Trump asked Xi for ideas on how to proceed, but held out the possibility of unilateral action.
“(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us,” said Tillerson.
There appeared to be little in the way of concrete achievements during 24 hours in the sun, but officials said that a rapport had been built that will carry on the next four years.
There was little evidence of Xi’s promised “tweetable deliverables” designed to smooth ties, but they may be rolled out during a 100-day plan on trade.
Sources briefed on Xi’s plans promised a package of Chinese investments aimed at creating more than 700,000 American jobs — the same number China’s regional rival Japan pledged to Trump during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Mar-a-Lago visit in February.
In return, Xi hoped to obtain assurances from Trump on punitive tariffs and the delay of an American arms sale to Taiwan, at least until after a major Communist Party meeting later this year.