President Trump is planning to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-lago next month for a two-day summit. China is the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States, and the move is seen as a shot to smooth relations between the two countries.
The trip is still being reported as tentative until Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes the final plans upon his return from his trip across Asia. His trip includes a stop in China, where he is expected to work out the details and confirm the summit’s itinerary.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has also touched on the topic of the two leaders meeting, but avoided giving too many details. “Planning is ongoing for a visit between President Trump and President Xi at a date to be determined,” Spicer said, saying any meeting would cover North Korea and other issues.
The meeting comes after a string of other meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials discussing ongoing relations between the countries after Trump criticized China on many accounts during the 2016 election and into the early days of his presidency.
During his campaign, Trump made accusations toward China in regards to their trade policies, which he deemed as unfair. He also spoke out against China’s strategy to build small islands in the South China Sea, a place in which many Asian countries have claimed ownership of much of the land in the area.
Secretary Tillerson, who sides with Trump, raised eyebrows when he criticized China’s construction of a man-made island in the South China Sea. China has reclaimed over 3,200 acres of land in the region, built airstrips on their newly-constructed islands, and equipped them with defense weaponry. The issue is that there are five other countries whose governments have claimed much of the land in the Spratly Islands, where China has begun taking over.
United States officials claim that building the islands doesn’t give China any additional territorial rights. An international arbitration panel in the Hague ruled against China’s historical claim to ownership of waters within the South China Sea last year. To this point, Beijing has ignored the ruling and the U.S.’s claims.
The South China Sea provides employment for 3.7 million people, generates billions of dollars in annual revenue and furnishes a vital source of protein for millions.
The State Department has said that Tillerson will be discussing the construction of the islands in his meeting with Beijing officials this weekend during his stop in China.
Throughout his speeches on the campaign trail, and then again more recently, President Trump has questioned China’s intentions when it comes to their relationship with North Korea. He has also accused the country of not doing enough to help U.S. allies in South Korea work on their defense from North Korean threats.
In the past few weeks, North Korea has reignited their threats in order to try and stop the deployment of THAAD, the defense system developed by the United States and South Korea. The system is designed to help the small island country defend itself from any potential North Korean missiles that may be aimed in its direction. Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, has said that his country will not back down from their threats if the system is fully deployed, creating further tensions between all of East Asia.
China has been accused of joining forces with North Korea in its mission to stop South Korea. China has begun closing down South Korean-owned companies like Lotte, who depends on China for 30% of its overall revenue. Many other retailers have protested Lotte and its products in an effort to force them out of the large country.
The United States and South Korea have both refused to back down from finishing their project and aim to fulfill their agreement with each other. President Trump hopes to gain some clarity on China’s position in the ordeal during the summit with President Xi.
After his inauguration, Trump took a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, which angered China. He then claimed the United States does not have to uphold the so-called “One China” policy many diplomats and politicians have grown accustomed to.
The policy refers to the view that there is only one state called China, as opposed to there actually being two – the People’s Republic of China (Mainland China) and the Republic of China (Taiwan). The idea behind the policy is that any nation who wants to have diplomatic relations with either of the governments must give up any ties to the other. As a result of the U.S. agreement to endorse the policy, trades with China have increased over the last few decades, and ties with Taiwan have essentially ceased to exist.
The policy was introduced in 1992, and was considered the “norm” until President Trump took office and called China out on the ordeal. He believed any diplomatic ties to either nation should not be dependent on the other. After a phone conversation with President Xi, Trump took back his comment and decided to honor the policy, but not without sparking a conversation first, which was his ultimate plan.
There have also been instances in which President Trump has written to President Xi regarding “constructive ties” between the world superpowers.
Since taking office, Trump has also hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leading many to believe that next month’s meeting is a continuation of Trump’s efforts to create a strong alliance against North Korea.
The summit, which is tentatively scheduled for April 6-7, will hopefully strengthen ties between the two leaders and help both nations work together in promoting worldwide progress. Economic and security issues between the two countries arose when Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi visited with Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last month. Since then, strengthening ties with the country has been a high priority for the Trump administration.