U.S. President Donald Trump says “we have a big problem” in North Korea, adding that the problem could have been handled years ago.
ONE is a teetotaller who has made millions from golf clubs and is famous for speaking off the cuff.
The other is a soccer fan notorious for his control who rarely strays from the script.
Now US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will convene at the “winter White House” Mar-a-Lago in Florida for two days of talks covering everything from trade to global security.
Ahead of the critical showdown, President Trump vowed to deliver an ultimatum to his Chinese counterpart, saying if China didn’t act on North Korea, “we will”.
It’s a high stakes gamble that could lead to greater leverage with China or expose Mr Trump in a bluff.
Either way, the talks between the two giants, which account for 40 per cent of global trade, are being closely watched.
“No one — neither diplomats nor aides — can be sure what will happen when the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation meets a mercurial American president who has been in office less than 100 days and is capable of unravelling the most carefully laid plans with a single 140-character tweet,” news agency AFP wrote ahead of the event.
With high stakes on both sides, here’s a glimpse at what’s on the agenda.
Trade is the foremost item on the bill and Mr Trump’s criticism of China has been a centrepiece of his policy throughout his campaign.
He has accused China of “raping our country” and blasted it for currency manipulation and taxing US products while building islands in the South China Sea.
He said he expected the meeting to be “very difficult”. Meanwhile, the White House has stressed the first encounter is designed to set the framework rather than any major policy moves.
The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
…and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
A source close to Mr Xi’s plans told AFP the Chinese leader would offer “win-win” gifts, including Chinese investment to create US jobs. It’s a similar tactic to that adopted by Germany and Japan, which both saw employment opportunities and investment as a way to the President’s heart.
Financial markets were on edge ahead of the meeting as investors speculated about what it may bring.
“With Trump in the past repeatedly accusing China of keeping its currency at artificially low levels against the dollar and stealing American jobs, the outcome of the meeting is something that remains unknown,” FXTM research analyst Lukman Otunuga said.
“If Trump decides to play hardball and maintains his harsh rhetoric on China, then risk aversion may intensify consequently sending investors rushing towards safe-haven assets.”
Recent aggression from North Korea will also be a key item on the agenda, with China widely seen as one of the few countries that can pressure North Korea into toning down its aggressive rhetoric.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump said the US would go it alone and he did not need China’s help to “solve” North Korea, but with China accounting for 90 per cent of North Korea’s external trade, having China on side sure would help.
“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you,” he told the Financial Times.
“China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone,” he said.
China claims that it has limited influence on North Korea and a US nuclear defence system in South Korea disrupts security in the region. It’s also unwilling to make drastic moves, amid fears a collapse could lead to a flood of refugees into China, AFP reports.
Mr Xi will look for US commitment to the one-China policy and to come across as a diplomatic equal befitting China’s status as a superpower. AFP reports Mr Xi may also ask for delayed US weapons sales to Taiwan.
Mr Trump has already said the US holds a one-China policy after a diplomatic upset when he spoke with Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing Wen over the phone shortly after his election.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
So far, China has ignored US calls to stop building islands in the South China Sea, which are seen as an increasing military threat to the region.
Mr Trump has blasted China for not asking permission on the issue and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signalled a tougher line than in the past, saying the US would intervene if other countries’ territorial rights were violated.
ONE ITEM OFF THE AGENDA
Human rights and the future of the two countries’ working relationship is also expected to be brought up, with the two men likely to call for greater co-operation in future.
US First Lady Melania Trump and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan will both be present during the meeting, which will also include a “working lunch” and perhaps a stroll around the grounds.
The one thing that won’t be on the table? Any golf, a White House spokesman said.
President Donald Trump indicated the possibility of a policy shift on Syria during a press conference on Wednesday, after a chemical attack left dozens of Syrian citizens dead. Where may Mr. Trump be heading? WSJ?s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer. Photo: Getty