WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will hold his first summit with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in California next month, with Sino-U.S. relations rattled by alleged cyberspying by Beijing and tensions in the Pacific.
Obama will welcome Xi to the plush Sunnylands estate resort in Palm Springs on June 7-8, as Washington seeks Chinese help to subdue North Korean belligerence.
The talks will be the first major move by Obama in the crucial but delicate relationship with Beijing since he won a second White House term, after a campaign in which China and its trade practices were often criticized.
“President Obama and President Xi will hold in-depth discussions on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues,” the White House said in a statement.
“They will review progress and challenges in U.S.-China relations over the past four years and discuss ways to enhance cooperation, while constructively managing our differences, in the years ahead.”
The White House said that Obama National Security Adviser Tom Donilon would travel to Beijing to prepare for the Obama-Xi meeting between May 26-28.
Previously, Obama and Xi had not been expected to meet until September’s Group of 20 summit in Russia, but given the fact that both leaders are embarking on new terms of office, it appears both sides were keen for an earlier meeting.
The announcement that Xi and Obama would meet was made hours after Obama met Myanmar President Thein Sein.
Many analysts see U.S. diplomatic engagement with Myanmar as an attempt to peel it away from Chinese influence — in the context of the wider U.S. foreign policy “pivot” toward Asia. So the timing of the announcement that Obama and Xi would meet, sure to make big headlines in China and throughout Asia, may be seen as significant.
Washington has repeatedly called for Beijing to do more to rein in its nominal ally North Korea during an alarming period of elevated tensions with the Stalinist state. On a visit to Beijing last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry directly told Xi that China had unique sway over its troublesome neighbor.
Recent warnings by the Pentagon and other independent analysts that China is engaged in a vast campaign of cyber-espionage to extract information on U.S. government policy and military secrets have caused outrage in Washington.
In an interview with ABC News in March, Obama said that some, but not necessarily all, cyber-attacks on U.S. firms and infrastructure originating in China were “state sponsored.”