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6 Apr, 2017 12:01

Best of frenemies? Trump & Xi to tackle trade, military tensions in 1st meeting

Chinese President Xi Jinping is heading to the US for a first meeting with Donald Trump. The Republican president launched numerous barbs at Beijing during his election campaign, and since being sworn in has confronted China on issues such as North Korea.

Xi will meet Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, late in the afternoon on Thursday. After a formal dinner with their wives, the leaders will kick off a summit continuing into Friday, when a working launch is scheduled.

While on the campaign trail Trump didn’t hold back on China, which he accused of stealing American jobs and playing dirty to get trade advantages. He threatened to slap import taxes on Chinese goods and take other drastic steps unless Beijing offers a “better deal” to America.

Chinese officials preferred to dismiss Trump’s statements as rhetoric aimed at voters, rather than a declaration of future policies. Xi’s visit is likely to test how far the US president will actually go now that he is in the White House.

Trump also criticized China for failing to rein in North Korea, a country that relies on China for aid, jobs for guest workers and other elements crucial for its ailing economy. Pyongyang was subjected to UN-mandated sanctions for its continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and China’s willingness to enforce those sanctions is essential.

Earlier this week, Trump threatened to deal with North Korea with or without Beijing’s help. He didn’t go into details on how exactly this would be done, but the US and South Korea have been training for decades for a possible military operation against the North.

Xi has bones to pick with Trump, too. China is opposing the deployment of the American THAAD antimissile system in South Korea, a move that Washington and Seoul claim is needed to protect the country from possible Pyongyang aggression. Beijing sees the deployment as part of a US attempt to encroach on its military under the pretense of the threat from North Korea.

After South Korea chose to go ahead with the deployment, Beijing apparently targeted its economy with undeclared sanctions.

READ MORE: Seoul vows to proceed with THAAD deployment, slams China’s ‘reprisals’ tactics

The US and China have also been locking horns over the South China Sea, where Beijing claims sovereignty over a group of islands contested by several other nations. The US asserts the islands and the space around them as not being under any nation’s sovereignty, and is sending warplanes and navy ships through the region to prove its point.

Just before the Chinese president’s visit, Trump removed Steve Bannon from the US National Security Council. Bannon, the White House chief strategist, was quoted as saying last year that the US would certainly go to war with China over the South China Sea within a decade.

Max Keiser, the host of RT’s ‘Keiser Report’ show, says Trump is unlikely to take any really hostile steps against Beijing, considering that China is the largest creditor of the US.

“Trump’s threats to China during the campaign – he doesn’t really have any weight to exercise these threats, because China can simply dump trillions of US dollars into the market and crash the dollar and the US bond market,” he said.