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China's Xi to meet Trump in Florida next week

China's Xi to meet Trump in Florida next week
March 30, 2017

WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold their first face-to-face talks next week, a highly anticipated meeting between leaders at odds over trade, China's strategic ambitions and how to deal with North Korea's weapons programs.

The White House said Trump would host Xi next Thursday and Friday at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida and "discuss global, regional, and bilateral issues of mutual concern."

Trump and his wife Melania will host Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan at a dinner next Thursday, a White House statement said.

It will be the first meeting between Xi and Trump, whose presidency began on Jan. 20, amid heightened tensions between the world’s two largest economies over issues including North Korea, the disputed South China Sea, Taiwan and trade.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang gave no details of the agenda in announcing Xi's travel plans at a daily news briefing in Beijing, but spoke of the need to see the big picture while fostering mutual interests in trade relations.

"The market dictates that interests between our two countries are structured so that you will always have me and I will always have you," Lu said.

"Both sides should work together to make the cake of mutual interest bigger and not simply seek fairer distribution," he said in response to a question about trade frictions.

U.S. administration officials say North Korea, the large U.S. trade imbalance with China and Beijing's pursuit of expansive claims in the South China Sea will top the agenda.

The summit will follow a string of other recent U.S.-China meetings and conversations aimed at mending ties after strong criticism of China by Trump during his election campaign.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended a trip to Asia this month in Beijing, agreeing to work together with China on North Korea and stressing Trump's desire to enhance understanding.

China has been irritated at being told repeatedly by Washington to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and by the U.S. decision to base an advanced missile defends system in South Korea.

Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions towards self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

During his election campaign, Trump accused China of unfair trade policies, criticized its island-building in the strategic South China Sea, and accused it of doing too little to constrain North Korea.

Trump also incensed Beijing in December by taking a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and saying that Washington did not have to stick to a "one China" policy.

He later agreed in a phone call with Xi to honour the long-standing policy and has also written to Xi since seeking "constructive ties." –Reuters