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Trump and Xi Have a Lot to Discuss

The two meet in Florida with a lengthy agenda, including North Korea.

President Donald Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping this weekend at Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. There is no shortage of topics to discuss, but one of the biggest measure of this meeting may be how the two leaders size each other up. Trump is certainly not the leader the famously tactical Chinese expected for an American leader, and Xi is not someone the self-proclaimed dealmaker Trump will take lightly.

Foremost of any discussion between the two leaders will be how to handle North Korea. The Hermit Kingdom has been testing its ballistic missiles in recent months, and it has clearly moved ahead with its nuclear weapons program. And, why not? Barack Obama was never going to do anything other than shake his fist, and that was when he was paying attention.

North Korea was emboldened during the Obama years for the same reason that Iran, Syria and a number of other rogue regimes were emboldened. There was not a price for the country’s actions, so Kim Jong Un had no reason to stop testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Now that Syria has a taste of what crossing the red line really looks like, perhaps North Korea might come to understand just what a determined U.S. president might be capable of.

In fact, the strikes occurred during Trump’s dinner with Xi Thursday evening.

North Korea is a hot issue that China would rather not deal with, but Trump is unlikely to let Xi off easy. China’s proximity to North Korea, both geographically and ideologically, make it the prime candidate to be the nation that can rein in Kim. If China wants to be a player on the world stage, then it is going to have to show some muscle in its own neighborhood.

China has a vested interest in North Korea, but it may not know just what that interest is right now. Of course, if the country collapses, there is a major refuge issue, and if Kim or his military are stupid enough to start a war, China will have to deal with the U.S. military operating right in its backyard. That could get really tense really fast.

So, how will Trump handle Xi? He talked tough about the Chinese during his campaign. Trade issues and China’s currency manipulation were staples on the trail for Trump, and they are also going to be big topics of conversation with Xi.

Trump would be wise to address China’s more aggressive role in the South China Sea, an international body of water that the country has basically claimed as its own in the last few years. They’ve gotten little pushback from the United States. Other than declare that America was going to redirect its foreign policy focus to Asia, not much took place. North Korea was allowed to progress with its nuclear program, and China continued to build islands in the sea while becoming more antagonistic toward Taiwan.

Whatever happens next, America will most likely have a stronger role than in any of the last eight years.

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