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Trump to hold summit talks with Xi, overshadowed by U.S. airstrikes on Syria

All News 23:01 April 07, 2017

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump is to hold formal summit talks Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to be focused on North Korea and trade and overshadowed by surprise U.S. airstrikes on Syria the previous night.

Thursday's missile attack, which came in response to Syria's use of deadly chemical weapons earlier this week, was also seen as a powerful message to North Korea, Iran and other rogue states that Trump can take military action against them at any time.

After the strikes, Trump addressed the nation and said that it is in the "vital national interest" of the U.S. to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. The same could be said of the nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles Pyongyang has long pursued.

Trump hopes to use the talks with Xi to persuade and pressure China to use more of its leverage as the main provider of food and energy for the impoverished North to bring the provocative regime under control, and to reduce the massive trade deficit with China.

The strikes against Syria, which came in the middle of the state dinner Trump hosted for Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, could also send a message to China that the U.S. may take unilateral action unless Beijing helps rein in Pyongyang.

Trump to hold summit talks with Xi, overshadowed by U.S. airstrikes on Syria - 1

The summit comes as North Korea has been ratcheting up tensions with a series of banned ballistic missile launches, including the latest one earlier this week, in pursuit of the development of a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S.

Trump has long said North Korea is China's problem to fix, criticizing Beijing for refusing to use its influence over Pyongyang. He had even questioned why the U.S. should stick to the "One China" policy of recognizing only Beijing, not Taiwan, when China is not helping with the North Korea problem, though he later promised to respect the policy.

China, considered the only country with any meaningful influence over the North, has been reluctant to use its leverage for fears that pushing the regime too hard could result in instability in the North and even its collapse, which could lead to the emergence of a pro-U.S. nation on its border.

Trump said in an interview with the Financial Times published Sunday that China should help with the problem by using the "great influence" it has over Pyongyang, warning that if it doesn't, the U.S. will solve the problem on its own, and that "won't be good for anyone."

Trump also said he would use trade as an incentive for China to take action on the North.

Earlier this week, a senior White House official said during a briefing to preview the summit that how to deal with North Korea is a "test of the relationship" between the U.S. and China.

The Trump administration has shown increasing impatience with the North, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson openly mentioning the possibility of using military options during a trip to South Korea last month. After Tuesday's missile launch by the North, Tillerson issued an unusually blunt statement saying the U.S. "has spoken enough about North Korea."

The summit will also be watched closely as to whether the U.S. stands up to China for bullying South Korea for hosting the U.S. THAAD missile defense system designed to defend better against ever-growing missile threats from North Korea.

Just days before the meetings, a bipartisan group of 26 U.S. senators sent a joint letter urging Trump to use the summit with Xi to bring an end to Beijing's retaliatory measures in an attempt to pressure Seoul to scrap the decision to have a THAAD battery.


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