BloombergHONG KONG (Bloomberg) — U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Beijing for a high-stakes state visit where he’ll look for wins from Xi Jinping on everything from the United States’ massive trade deficit to reining in North Korea.
The third leg of Trump’s five-nation Asia tour comes after stops in Tokyo and Seoul. Addressing South Korea’s parliament earlier Wednesday he had strong words for Kim Jong Un — even as he remained open to a potential deal on North Korea’s nuclear weapons. And he called on China, Kim’s main ally and biggest trading partner, to cut him off.
The state visit, which will meld intimate sit-downs with Xi alongside state dinners and gala events joined by dozens of business leaders, is China’s answer to his hosting Xi at his Florida estate, Mar a Lago, earlier this year.
It is by far the most important part of his trip, given he believes China is central to reining in North Korea. And Trump’s personal brand of diplomacy — based in professions of deep friendship to get what he wants — will be tested by his ability to come away with Chinese promises to halt what he sees as predatory trade practices.
While Trump repeatedly bashed China on the campaign trail for its trade and currency policies, on this trip he has an incentive to cut deals. His approval rating has plunged to an all-time low, while Xi has tightened his grip on power to become China’s strongest leader in decades.
During a briefing in Japan alongside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump cited his friendship with Xi, an awkward moment given the rivalry — which sometimes boils over into enmity — between Japan and China.
“I very much look forward to meeting with President Xi who is just off his great political victory,” Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday.
In remarks to reporters on Air Force One on Sunday, Trump rejected assertions he was entering the summit in a weakened state. He cited a soaring stock market, low unemployment, a strengthened military and gains against Islamic State in the Middle East.
“We are coming off some of the strongest numbers we’ve ever had, and he knows that and he respects that,” Trump said. “He’s a friend of mine. We’re friends.”
Keeping that friendship may require tempering some of his previous criticisms of China over North Korea. While Trump left the door open in Seoul to meeting Kim or doing a deal to defuse the nuclear tensions, he also lashed out at the regime, especially over its treatment of its citizens. He accused Kim of turning North Korea into “a hell that no person deserves.”
A senior State Department official, who asked not to be identified discussing the administration’s strategy, said the goal in China was to persuade leaders to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang on a granular level, out in the provinces, where small companies do business with North Korea.
China curbs trips to N. Korea
BEIJING/SEOUL (Reuters) — Chinese tour operators based in the border city of Dandong have been told to halt trips to Pyongyang, five sources told Reuters on Tuesday, the day before U.S. President Donald Trump’s first official visit to China.
Tourism is one of the few remaining ways North Korea earns hard currency, as the United Nations has ramped up sanctions on the country over the past year, curbing key export industries including coal, seafood and textiles.
“It was very unexpected, we had no idea this was going to happen until we received the notification today,” said a Chinese tour operator who runs trips to North Korea out of Dandong.
“This is devastating news for us,” he said, adding the order had come from the Dandong Tourism Bureau.
The sources Reuters interviewed for this story all requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The Dandong Tourism Bureau was not immediately reachable for comment late on Tuesday. China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent after working hours on Tuesday night.Speech