US President Donald Trump on Thursday set the tone for a tense first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) next week by tweeting that the US could no longer tolerate massive trade deficits and job losses.
The White House said Trump will host Xi on Thursday and Friday next week at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.
It said Trump and his wife, Melania, will host Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan (彭麗媛), at a dinner on Thursday next week.
In a tweet, Trump said the highly anticipated meeting between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, which is also expected to cover differences over North Korea and China’s strategic ambitions in the South China Sea, “will be a very difficult one.”
“We can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses,” he wrote, adding in apparent reference to US firms manufacturing in China: “American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.”
Despite a string of US-China meetings and conversations that have appeared aimed at mending ties after strong criticism of China by Trump during his election campaign, US officials have said the US president will not pull his punches in the meeting.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) gave no details of the agenda, but spoke of the need to see the big picture while fostering mutual interests in trade relations.
“The market dictates that interests between our two countries are structured so that you will always have me and I will always have you,” he told a regular news conference.
“Both sides should work together to make the cake of mutual interest bigger and not simply seek fairer distribution,” he said.
Trump administration officials said the need for China to do more to rein in the nuclear and missile programs of its neighbor and ally North Korea will top the agenda, along with trade.
The US is also expected to criticize Beijing for its pursuit of expansive claims in the South China Sea, where Taiwan has similar claims.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a news conference that the meeting would be an opportunity for Trump “to develop a relationship in person with President Xi. He’s spoken to him on the phone a few times, but we have big problems ... everything from the South China Sea, to trade, to North Korea. There are big issues of national and economic security that need to get addressed.”
Asked if the administration had a vision, or a description for its China policy like the “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia touted by former US president Barack Obama, Spicer said: “Right now we’re not worried so much about slogans as much as progress. There’s a lot of big things that we need to accomplish with China and I think that we will — we will work on them.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last month in Beijing agreed to work with China on North Korea and stressed Trump’s desire to enhance understanding.
China has been irritated at being told repeatedly by Washington to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs or face US sanctions, and by the US decision to base an advanced missile defense system in South Korea.
Beijing is also deeply suspicious of US intentions toward Taiwan, after Trump, as US president-elect, broke with decades of US policy by taking a telephone call from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and saying Washington did not have to stick to its “one China” policy.
Trump later agreed in a telephone call with Xi to honor the long-standing policy and has also written to him since seeking “constructive ties.”
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