Trump tells Xi of Syria missile attack over Thursday night dinner in Mar-a-Lago

Xi leaves after 24-hour summit with Trump

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 2:47am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 8:59am

China’s President Xi Jinping and his delegation left US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida after agreeing to cooperate on trade initiatives and efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

Xi also clinched a plan to have his American counterpart visit China later this year.

The 24-hour visit defied expectations among some analysts that a meeting so soon into Trump’s tenure risked damaging relations between the world’s two largest economies.

“The two leaders had positive productive meetings,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Palm Beach after Xi’s delegation departed. “Both the atmosphere and the chemistry between the two leaders was positive,” laying the groundwork for further staff-level meetings.

No date has been set for Trump’s visit to China, according to Tillerson.

“President Trump made excellent preparations for our country’s representatives and gave us a warm reception,” Xi said before departing Mar-a-Lago, according to Chinese media.

“We recently have had in-depth and lengthy communications to this end and arrived at many common understandings, the most important being deepening our friendship and building a kind of trust in keeping with the Sino-US working relationship and friendship.”

While details on what the two sides discussed are thin, Trump would seem to have avoided the antagonistic stance he maintained towards China during and immediately after his presidential campaign.

US officials had signalled their intention to make progress on North Korea ahead of the summit, pushed by the most recent missile test by Pyongyang on Wednesday. Tillerson said there was no “package arrangement” on the topic, but that President Xi shared the US view that North Korean military provocations have reached a “very serious stage.”

“There are not enough details here to be sure whether this moved the ball forward, other than to signal the high priority of North Korea as an issue where Chinese cooperation could win US favour,” Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview.

Tillerson said the two sides didn’t make any specific agreements on any particular topic, although US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the presidents agreed to a “100-day action plan” on trade with China, with “way-stations of accomplishment.”

Earlier on Friday, China’s official Xinhua news agency said Xi proposed four parallel consultation mechanisms to replace the now-defunct Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), which observers said had helped contain divergent and often conflicting interests between the two nations through regular meetings since 2009.

China suggests new platform for regular dialogue with US

Moreover, comments by Xi suggest that a US military strike against Syria, ordered by Trump shortly before the two presidents met, didn’t sour the friendly tone of the summit.

Trump informed Xi of his country’s missile strikes against Syria’s military as his dinner with the Chinese leader at Mar-a-Lago concluded, more than four hours after Trump gave the strike order, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters covering the two leaders’ summit in Florida.

US missile strike is ‘warning to North Korea’

Trump issued the strike order at 4.00 pm (EDT) Thursday (4 am HKT on Friday, April 7), after two days of consultations with US Defence Secretary James Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who are with Trump in Florida, as well as his Joint Chiefs of Staff and other members of his national security team, Spicer said.

Tillerson said Xi offered his “understanding” of Trump’s decision to launch a military strike on Syria to stop the indiscriminate killing of children.

The US Navy fired more than 50 missiles from destroyers patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for a chemical attack Tuesday against civilians in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikoun.

Donald Trump accepts Xi Jinping’s invitation to visit China

The timing of events, as explained by Spicer, suggest that Trump informed some foreign leaders and congressional leaders before he told Xi. Spicer declined to specify which foreign leaders and members of Congress were informed first.

US officials have accused President Bashar Assad’s forces of carrying out the chemical attack, which killed more than 70 people, including women and children, in Syria.