WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at a two-day summit next month, according to media reports, as his administration seeks to smooth relations with the world’s second-largest economy.
The meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 6-7 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, U.S. online media outlet Axios reported Monday, citing officials familiar with the plans.
CNN also reported the planned summit, citing an unnamed administration official. It said the plan is tentative and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to finalize plans during a trip this week to Asia, which includes a stop in China.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the White House is preparing for a meeting between the two leaders but is not ready to announce a date.
“Planning is ongoing for a visit between President Trump and President Xi at a date to be determined,” Spicer said, saying any meeting will cover North Korea and other issues.
In previewing Tillerson’s Asia visit, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton told reporters it will “to some extent be paving the way for future high-level meetings between our two presidents.”
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A summit will follow a string of other recent U.S.-China meetings and conversations aimed at mending ties after strong criticism of China by Trump during his election campaign.
If the plans proceeded as scheduled, Xi will be the second foreign leader to be invited to the Trump estate after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February.
While Trump and Abe played golf together, no golf is expected during the planned meeting between the U.S. and Chinese leaders, according to Axios.
Axios dubbed the planned Trump-Xi meeting “a lowering-the-temperature summit with vast economic and security implications.”
Thornton said the United States is “pursuing a results-oriented relationship with China; one that benefits the American people and one that remains faithful to our allies and presses China to abide by international rules and norms.”
She said Tillerson has urged China in previous meetings to do all it can to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and “to create a level playing field for trade and investment.”
“We want to be able to pursue a constructive discussion with China that enables us to get at problem areas,” she said.
China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, visited Washington last month and met Trump and Tillerson.
During his campaign, Trump accused China of unfair trade policies, criticized its island-building in the strategic South China Sea, and accused it of doing too little to constrain its neighbor, North Korea.
Trump incensed Beijing in December by taking a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later saying the United States does not have to stick to the “one China” policy.
Trump later agreed in a phone call with Xi to honor the long-standing policy and has also since written to Xi seeking “constructive ties.”
Tillerson, making his first trip to Asia as secretary of state, will visit China on Saturday and Sunday and meet Xi and other leaders.
Xi is likely to seek reassurances from Trump that he will continue U.S. support for the one-China policy, said Fu Mengzi, vice president of the state Security Ministry-backed China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
A summit will be a “positive sign” for relations between the two countries, Mengzi said.
“It’s imperative that China establish top-level direct dialogue with the new U.S. president as soon as possible because Trump’s China policy is still in the formation,” Mengzi said. “An early summit can help set the tone for a still unfolding bilateral relationship.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will visit Japan and Indonesia as part of an Asian tour next month, sources said Monday, amid concerns that the Trump administration is rolling back former President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”
Thorton said the United States is a Pacific power and will “certainly be remaining active and engaged in Asia,” whether or not the terminology remains the same.
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