Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Donald Trump to push China on trade, North Korea during his two-day visit
VIDEO: Xi Jinping treats Donald Trump to a tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing (Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik). (ABC News)
President Donald Trump is expected to push China on trade and North Korea during a two-day visit in which he will cajole, flatter and scold the rising Asian power.
White House aides view Mr Trump's visit as the centrepiece of his lengthy Asia tour.
Mr Trump, who is mired in consistently low approval ratings at home, will encounter newly emboldened Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently consolidated power in his country, while Mr Trump's every utterance will be studied by allies anxious to see if his inward-looking "America First" mantra could cede power in the region to China.
Before arriving in Beijing on Wednesday, Mr Trump used an address to the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, to deliver a stern message to China — North Korea's biggest trade partner.
The US President urged "responsible nations" to unite and stop supporting North Korea.
He called on "every nation, including China and Russia," to fully implement recent UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea.
President Trump is expected to demand that China curtail its dealings with Pyongyang and expel North Korean workers.
He has praised China for taking some steps against Pyongyang but urged them to do more, as administration officials believe the border between China and North Korea remains a trade corridor.
"I want to just say that President Xi — where we will be tomorrow, China — has been very helpful. We'll find out how helpful soon," Mr Trump said on Tuesday night in Seoul.
"China is out trying very hard to solve the problem with North Korea."
The White House is banking on Mr Trump's personal rapport with Mr Xi to drive the negotiations.
President Trump has frequently showered praise on Mr Xi, who recently became the nation's most powerful leader in decades.
"Now with that being said, he represents China, I represent the USA, so, you know, there's going to always be conflict."
PHOTO: Donald Trump and Melania Trump arrived in Beijing, the third stop on their 12-day Asia tour. (AP: Pang Xinglei/Xinhua)
The President and first lady Melania Trump were greeted at the airport by dozens of children who waved US and Chinese flags and jumped up and down.
They sipped tea with Mr Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, and received a private tour of the Forbidden City, Beijing's ancient imperial palace, including a performance by young opera students before dinner.
Mr Trump said afterward that he was "having a great time" in China.
PHOTO: Donald Trump received an elaborate welcome, including a performance by young opera students. (AP: Andrew Harnik)
White House officials point to the summit in Florida this spring, an event partly defined by Mr Trump telling his Chinese counterpart about the missile strike he ordered on Syria while the two men dined on chocolate cake.
But experts in the region suggest that Mr Xi may be playing Mr Trump.
"Trump keeps portraying his relationship with Xi as great pals but that's wildly naive," said Mike Chinoy, an expert on East Asia policy at the US-China Institute at the University of Southern California.
Mr Trump talked tough during his election campaign about fixing American's trade relationship with China and labelling it a "currency manipulator".
But he has signalled that he would take it easy on Beijing if it will help with the nuclear threat from North Korea.
"Trump has mortgaged the whole US-China relationship to get the Chinese on board with the North Korea plan," Mr Chinoy said.
"He is now coming at it from a position of weakness."
White House officials have said if Mr Trump were to chide Mr Xi about human rights or democratic reforms he would likely do it privately.
Andrew Nathan, a political science professor and China expert at Columbia University, said Mr Trump's "infatuation" with Mr Xi was reminiscent of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's fascination with Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People's Republic of China.
One uncertainty for Mr Trump is whether he will be able to use Twitter in China, which has banned the social media platform.
Though the United States could enable it to work, the White House declined to comment on whether Mr Trump would tweet from China.
Mr Trump arrived in Beijing after two days in Seoul, where he largely avoided the inflammatory rhetoric — like dubbing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un "Little Rocket Man" — that has defined his approach to Pyongyang.
He sounded an optimistic note, saying confidently, if vaguely, that "ultimately, it'll all work out" while shifting views and expressing hope that diplomacy could resolve the tensions.
But the US President also warned North Korea in his speech to "not underestimate us. And do not try us".
One hoped-for message to Pyongyang went unsent. Though the White House had previously indicated that President Trump would not visit the heavily fortified demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea, plans had been in the works for him to make an unannounced visit on Wednesday morning.
Mr Trump boarded the Marine One helicopter and flew to within five minutes of the DMZ when US military pilots and Secret Service agents determined the fog was too thick to safely land.
The helicopter returned to Seoul and President Trump waited nearly an hour for the weather to clear. The fog did not lift in time.