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Saturday 24 February 2018

Donald Trump hails 'outstanding' relationship with Chinese president

Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping shake hands during their dinner at Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida (AP)
Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping shake hands during their dinner at Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida (AP)

Donald Trump said he has developed an "outstanding" relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping after meeting with the leader of a nation the US president has criticised as a menace to his country.

The meeting of the leaders of the world's two largest economies was largely overshadowed by the US missile strike on Syria.

Those strikes added weight to Mr Trump's threat last week to act unilaterally against North Korea's weapons programme.

Mr Trump said in a brief appearance before reporters that he and Xi made "tremendous progress" in their first face-to-face talks and he believed "lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away".

The two days of talks at Mr Trump's private estate in Florida were expected to focus on what he has described as China's unfair trade practices and inadequate efforts to halt North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programme.

Mr Xi said the delegations covered important topics and have established a good friendship and working relationship.

He said he believes the US and China can continue to develop the relationship, noting it is the historic responsibility of both countries to work toward peace and stability.

The US announced the missile strike shortly after the two men wrapped up dinner on Thursday.

The strikes were retaliation against Syrian president Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack against civilians caught up in his country's long civil war.

China has sided with Russia at the United Nations in opposing condemnation of Mr Assad's government but has not become directly involved in the conflict.

On Friday, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China opposed the use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstances but did not comment on the US attack.

The timing of the attack could send a message to the Chinese.

Mr Trump told the Financial Times in the days before Mr Xi's arrival that he is prepared to go it alone on North Korea if China does not work with the US to crack down on North Korea's nuclear programme.

Military options against North Korea are much riskier than those against Syria.

It has already tested nuclear weapons and South Korea's capital, Seoul, is in range of North Korean artillery.

Taking action against North Korea has been a sticking point in US talks with the Chinese. China is North Korea's most important ally and trading partner.

Before Thursday's dinner, Mr Trump said he and Mr Xi already had had a long discussion and had "developed a friendship," and then joked, "I have gotten nothing, absolutely nothing".

Chinese state media reported late on Thursday that Mr Trump has accepted Mr Xi's invitation to visit China this year.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Mr Trump will travel to China at an "early date" in 2017 but gave no details.

The White House downplayed expectations for a breakthrough on issues like trade and tariffs, insisting the 24-hour summit is mostly an introductory meeting for the two leaders.

As a candidate and president, Mr Trump has taken an aggressive posture toward China, labelling Beijing a "tremendous problem" and arguing that lopsided trade deals with China shortchange American businesses and workers.


Press Association

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