Confirming recurring rumors from the past month, overnight both China's Foreign Ministry and the White House confirmed that China's president Xi Jinping will meet with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida on April 6-7. It will be Xi's first meeting with Trump, a little over a month after Trump used the same venue to meet with Japan's PM Abe, and comes at a time when the two sides face pressing issues, ranging from North Korea and the South China Sea to trade disputes.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, who made the announcement at a daily news briefing on Thursday, did not give any more details of the meeting 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," Lu said.
"Both sides should work together to make the cake of mutual interest bigger and not simply seek fairer distribution," he said in response to a question about trade frictions.
Beijing had previously said that preparatory work for the meeting was underway. But it had not yet confirmed the trip, despite western media reports on a scheduled meeting and an announcement by the Finnish government that Xi would make a brief stop in Finland on April 5.
The summit follows a series of other recent U.S.-China meetings and conversations aimed at mending ties after strong criticism of China by Trump during his election campaign. Rex Tillerson ended a trip to Asia this month in Beijing, agreeing to work together with China on North Korea and stressing Trump's desire to enhance understanding.
Among the most pressing recent issues, China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and by the U.S. decision to base an advanced missile defense system in South Korea. Beijing also remains suspicious of U.S. intentions towards self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
Of course, trade will be a dominant topic: Trump has repeatedly 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 North Korea, although with the "Goldman" block silencing Peter Navarro in recent months, Trump has significantly moderated his tone.
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Meanwhile, setting the stage for a just as critical summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he was ready to meet U.S. president Donald Trump at an Arctic summit in Finland. According to Reuters, the Russian president made this remark responding to his Finnish counterpart, who said he would be happy to receive Russian and U.S. presidents in Finland.
“I believe Finland suits this purpose well, and Helsinki is a very convenient platform to organize an event like this,” Putin said, when asked if he thought a meeting between him and Trump was possible in Finland. However, he added that the event should be well prepared “by both sides.”
“If this happens, we – and I personally – would be glad to take part in such an event. If not, the meeting [with Trump] could take place in the framework of the G20 summit [set to take place in July],” Putin concluded.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said earlier that his country would “certainly be very happy to have the opportunity to hold such a summit.”
The summit is set to take place at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on September 18-20, 2017, according to the event’s official website.