U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping to make a state visit to Beijing later this year, although no date has been set.
The news came in a briefing by three U.S. Cabinet secretaries as Trump and Xi met at Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, and was confirmed by Chinese state media. No other details about the China trip were disclosed.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters Friday that the United States has a 100-day action plan on trade with China. He said the plan includes “way-stations of accomplishment,” but offered few additional details.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the two leaders discussed North Korea and agreed that the issue of North Korea’s arms buildup has reached a very serious stage. Tillerson said both the U.S. and China share a commitment to a denuclearized Korean peninsula and agreed to increase cooperation to achieve that goal.
It was unclear how extensively the issue of human rights in China was discussed, a subject the United States has advanced in such meetings during previous administrations.
Asked about this, Tillerson told reporters: “I don’t think you have to have a separate conversation [or] somehow separate our core values around human rights from our economic discussions, our military-to-military discussions or our foreign policy discussions. They’re really embedded in every discussion, that that is really what guides much of our view around how we’re going to work together.”
A statement later from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump, in his talks with Xi, “also noted the importance of protecting human rights and other values deeply held by Americans.”
Trump hails ‘tremendous progress’
Questioned about the U.S. missile strike in Syria, Tillerson said Trump personally informed Xi about the military action near the end of their dinner Thursday evening, telling him how many missiles were launched and the rationale behind the strike.
Earlier Friday, Trump told reporters he felt there was “tremendous progress” during his talks with the Chinese leader, and added he believes “lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away” as a result of improved relations between the two countries.
“The relationship developed by President Xi and myself I think is outstanding,” Trump said. “We look forward to being together many times in the future.”
Xi said he received a warm reception from members of the Trump administration and the two sides came to “many understandings” after holding “in-depth and lengthy communications.”
Chinese media reported that Xi told Trump there are “a thousand reasons to make the China-U.S. relationship work, and no reason to break it.”
Xi urges expanded cooperation
He called for expanded cooperation between Beijing and Washington in addressing global challenges, such as weapons nonproliferation and crime that crosses international borders.
Before the two leaders’ talks, Trump said the U.S. trade deficit with China, roughly $310 billion, would be high on the agenda, and that his administration hopes that Beijing will do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.
The two issues are linked, Trump said. “They really do mix.”
China supplies North Korea with almost all its fuel oil, imported foods, consumer goods and the raw materials used in its weapons program.
But China also has grown weary of the militaristic aspirations of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has not visited Beijing — Pyongyang’s closest ally — during his six-year rule. A series of U.N. sanctions against North Korea have not deterred Kim or his military from carrying out a lengthy series of missile tests.
Missiles in Syria echo in Pyongyang
Wei Bizhou, associate editor of World Journal North America, told VOA’s Mandarin service the U.S. strike on Syria signals that it could do the same thing to North Korea.
“It indicates that the U.S. can take the same action to North Korean missile bases, to make its missile program stagnant for 10 to 20 years, so that it has to drop the program,” Wei said.
Political writer Chen Pokong, also speaking with the Mandarin service, agreed.
“Trump used to say the U.S. should not intervene in Syria, but now he said the use of chemical weapons on children is unacceptable. The U.S. intervention in Syrian civil war is a message to North Korea,” he said.
And Cheng Xiaonong, a political and economic analyst, said North Korea was the real focus of the meeting, despite the official emphasis on trade.
“What they discussed about North Korea is at a deeper level, how to prevent North Korea from playing with nuclear weapons and dragging Northeast Asia into great danger,” Cheng said.
Baoshen of VOA’s Mandarin Service contributed to this report.