Trump welcomes ‘friend’ China’s Xi for talks

President Donald Trump says he has “developed a friendship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as he welcomed him to the US for their first summit.

The men and their wives dined at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.

Mr Xi urged co-operation on trade, invited his host to visit China and said there were “a thousand” reasons for them to get on.

Mr Trump predicted the summit “will be a very difficult one”. Last year he accused China of “raping the US”.

But at a welcome banquet on Thursday, it was all smiles, with the leaders’ two wives, folk singer Peng Liyuan and First Lady Melania Trump, in attendance.

Media captionWhat American and Chinese people want

Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both work at the White House, were also among guests.

Mr Xi’s visit will conclude with a working lunch on Friday.

The US president joked before dinner: “We’ve had a long discussion already, and so far I have gotten nothing, absolutely nothing.

“But we have developed a friendship – I can see that – and I think long term we are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it.”

They were served pan-seared Dover sole and New York strip steak in an ornate candle-lit private dining room decked with red and yellow flowers.

According to a statement on China’s Foreign Ministry website, Mr Xi told Mr Trump: “We have a thousand reasons to get China-US relations right, and not one reason to spoil the China-US relationship.”

The summit, however, is now largely overshadowed by a US airstrike on an airbase in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack.

The attack was made public on Thursday evening just moments after Mr Xi left the resort after dinner.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan

The leaders of the world’s two most powerful economies are a study in contrasts – one a softly spoken Communist Party apparatchik and the other a brash Manhattan property tycoon.

During the election campaign, Mr Trump said massive trade deficits and job losses could no longer be tolerated.

But he has so far not followed through on his threat to formally brand China a “currency manipulator”, nor to hit Chinese imports with punitive tariffs.

The Republican president’s blue-collar supporters will hope he can translate his China-bashing election rhetoric into concrete gains for American manufacturing workers.

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping

One of the most urgent issues for the US is nuclear-armed North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US.

It fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, the latest in a series of launches.

Although Beijing has condemned this and previous missile tests, it has so far been reluctant to isolate its neighbour, fearing its collapse could spawn a refugee crisis and bring the US military to its doorstep.

Media captionMaureen and Isabella don’t see eye-to-eye on Trump

For his part, Mr Xi will seek assurances from Mr Trump on US arms sales to Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province that must eventually reunify with the mainland.

Mr Trump outraged China in December when he took the unorthodox step of accepting a phone call from the Taiwanese president.

But the US president later agreed to respect the “one China” policy in a telephone call with President Xi in February.

Climate change, which Mr Trump once dismissed as a Chinese hoax, and Beijing’s building of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, could also come up.

Some protesters lined the streets on Thursday to voice their opposition to China’s policy in the South China Sea.

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