(CNN) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping may be in a relaxed setting when they meet at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort, in Florida. However, the issues on the table are very tense ones.
North Korea is high on the agenda. President Trump wants China to help in restraining North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s program, but as Trump told the Financial Times, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.
Beijing is North Korea’s only real ally and accounts for some 70% of the country’s trade. Trump blames China for not using enough of that leverage to curb North Korea’s march to develop a nuclear missile that one day could be capable of reaching the United States.
However, China sees things very differently. Balking at further economic pressure on Pyongyang. Regime collapse is the last thing it wants. China said North Korea’s fear of U.S. aggression is at the root of its nuclear arsenal.
China is suggesting the U.S. stop its regular massive war games with South Korea, with the quid pro quo that North Korea stop its missile and nuclear testing.
The U.S. and China don’t see eye to eye on trade either. President Xi has been marketing himself as a champion of free trade and globalization. The view here is that though there is room for improvement, globalization is a win-win scenario, but a trade war between the world’s two largest economies would make everyone lose.
Donald Trump has a very different point of view. China is by far the largest source of the United States’ half of a trillion dollars trade deficit. President Trump has accused China of being responsible for stealing U.S. jobs and hurting the U.S. economy. Trump signed executive orders last week initiating a large scale review of the causes of the U.S. trade deficit.
China will be a focal point of that review. Regional security is a thorny issue between the U.S. and China. One big point of contention in the view of the U.S. is the South China Sea, which China has built and is militarizing islands in international waters along important shipping routes for the region and for global trade.
Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has said that China should be blocked from accessing those artificial islands that it has built, setting the stage for a potential conflict.
However, China just doesn’t buy that. Beijing insists the South China Sea is historically Chinese, and that it has the right to develop it and defend it as it sees fit. Disputes with the other regional claimants should be dealt with by the countries involved and the U.S. has no business to meddle. Those are just some of the issues Presidents Trump and Xi are likely to tackle when they meet at Mar-a Lago.
This U.S.-China summit is crucial. What comes out of the two-day meeting could set the tone for U.S.-China relations for the next four years.