leroymoore

President Trump’s Most Important Meeting

In Peace, Politics, War on April 6, 2017 at 10:11 pm

New York Times Editorial, April 5, 2017

Donald Trump’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart this week will be the most important diplomatic encounter of his presidency so far. His two days of talks at Mar-a-Lago with President Xi Jinping will test whether the two men — Mr. Trump an unpredictable novice, Mr. Xi a tightly scripted, experienced leader — can begin to effectively manage the world’s most significant bilateral relationship.

By undoing American support for an international agreement on climate change, repudiating an Asia-oriented trade deal and calling for funding cuts for the United Nations, Mr. Trump has already ceded leadership in key areas to Mr. Xi, who is eager to expand Beijing’s role as an international power and has increasingly positioned his country as a competitor of the United States. It will be disastrous for America and the world if Mr. Trump continues on this disengagement path.

Mr. Trump does seem to appreciate the threat from North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs, putting that matter at the top of his agenda. He could hardly avoid it, given the fact that the North conducted another missile test on Tuesday as Mr. Xi was en route to the United States.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he expects China, the North’s main supplier of food and fuel, to increase pressure beyond what it has been willing to do so far to force an end to the weapons programs. In an interview in The Financial Times on Monday, he was even more demanding, warning that the United States would take unilateral action to eliminate the nuclear threat if Beijing fails to act, presumably by curbing trade and assistance.ACY POLICY
Analysts say China may be willing to increase pressure somewhat on North Korea, but well short of causing the regime in Pyongyang to collapse. Most experts believe that the North will not abandon its nuclear program unless the leadership at the top changes. China opposes this because it fears a surge of refugees into its territory and wants to keep North Korea as a buffer against a potentially unified Korean Peninsula dominated by the American military.

The United States and China may have a long-shot chance at an achievable solution if they agree to increase sanctions on North Korea and pursue more modest goals — halting North Korean missile tests and curbing the production of additional nuclear weapons — but there has been no serious sign of interest from the Trump administration.

Trade is another area where agreement is likely to be difficult, especially since these issues are still being fiercely debated inside the administration. During the campaign, Mr. Trump talked tough on China, promising to impose heavy tariffs on imports. But he has not followed through, and recently told The Financial Times that he hoped to reach some kind of deal with Mr. Xi. Administration officials said they hoped the summit meeting might produce concrete results, though that may be a lot to ask of the first encounter.
The risk in this meeting is that Mr. Trump knows little about diplomacy with China and does not have a team of China experts in place. He has already had to correct one major error; after calling into question America’s longstanding one-China policy, he retreated and told Mr. Xi in February that he would respect Beijing as the sole government of China and not recognize Taiwan.

The meeting is also a test for Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, who, while also lacking foreign policy and government experience, has played a dominant role as the primary interlocutor with the Chinese, thus eclipsing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Administration officials are confident that Mr. Trump can hold his own; Chinese officials say the same of Mr. Xi. Much is riding on whether they can do business.

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