US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during their first meeting will try to establish a personal rapport and find out the key concerns in the bilateral ties like North Korea and trade disputes, the White House said on Thursday.
Xi and Trump are scheduled to have a series of meetings later in the day at the US President’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, which is now being called the Southern White House.
“It’s fair to say that trade and the economic relationship generally will be a significant topic of discussion between the presidents at the summit,” Matt Pottinger, Senior Director for Asia at the National Security Council at the White House told reporters.
However, he refrained from making any comment on the outcome of the summit.
“The spirit of this summit is for the two to develop a relationship, to really establish a relationship, and to lay out the key concerns that each side has about the relationship and to then begin moving towards some kind of a formal series of dialogues that will aim to address those issues as well as areas of longstanding cooperation between the two sides. I’ll leave it at that for the moment,” he said.
While the two leaders have talked a few times earlier, this will be the first time that they will meet, he added.
Pottinger said this would be an opportunity for the two leaders to get to know each other and talk about bilateral and regional issues, starting with areas of cooperation, but also various areas of difference in the US-China relationship.
The meeting comes in the aftermath of the recent Beijing trip of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, which laid the ground work of the US-China summit.
“They’ll have an opportunity to have tea together, meet some of their senior cabinet officials, so to speak, on both sides, and have a dinner,” he said.
On Friday, there will be a series of meetings that will include a working lunch. Those meetings will have a variety of formats, the White House official said.
The two leaders will have some of their respective senior officials with them to cover a lot of ground.
“We’ll be talking about, of course, North Korea. We’ll be talking about trade and the economic relationship. We’ll be talking about maritime issues and a variety of other areas of cooperation and areas where we want to cooperate more closely with China,” Pottinger said, adding that North Korea is now a “strategic liability” 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 a whole,” Pottinger said.
North Korea yesterday fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, following which the US said that it was considering all options to tackle the threat posed by the country’s repeated nuclear arms tests.
“In terms of an area of co-operation, of course we would like to see China working closely with the United States to address the menace emanating from North Korea ? their weapons programmes, the provocations that we’re seeing every week; missile launches, including one that we just had not too many hours ago,” he said. “I think it’s in Beijing’s interest. I think that North Korea long ago ceased to be a strategic asset for China,” he added.