(ANTIMEDIA) Beijing — On Wednesday, Donald Trump touched down in Beijing to a literal red carpet treatment. Trump and wife Melania descended from Air Force One on the carpeted staircase to a festive tune played by a Chinese military band. Children were there, as well, jumping up and down and waving Chinese and American flags.
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President Xi Jinping had already emptied the Forbidden City — the former imperial palace of Chinese dynastic families that now serves as a museum — so the two world leaders and their wives could have a private tour. After that, it was reported Wednesday, it was time for a little opera.
It was the first occasion Trump and Xi had met since Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago in Florida back in April. Most in the media seem to agree that Xi’s warm welcome for Trump is evidence of the two leaders’ increasingly cordial relations. The U.S. president has certainly been laying it on rather thick as of late.
After Xi cemented his power last month at China’s Party Congress, Trump congratulated him via Twitter for his “extraordinary elevation.” Around that same time, he said in an interview that some might now call Xi the “king of China.” Then, this week, Trump took to Twitter again, saying he’s looking forward to meeting with Xi following his “great political victory.”
This is great and all, but there are still important matters to be discussed between the leaders of the world’s two largest superpowers. Those matters will be brought to the table on Thursday. Unsurprisingly, according to Trump’s own team, the two top items will be trade and North Korea.
It was Trump’s comments on the latter item in a speech in South Korea on Tuesday that made headlines in the hours before the U.S. president landed in Beijing. That speech consisted mostly of praise for the government and people of South Korea for their progress — with the United States’ help, of course — in the decade following the Korean War.
But Trump also took the opportunity to directly address the Kim Jong-un regime in a manner that should be familiar to everyone at this point:
“North Korea is a country ruled as a cult. At the center of this military cult is a deranged belief in the leader’s destiny to rule as parent protector over a conquered Korean Peninsula and an enslaved Korean people.”
Trump went on to say that South Korea’s success is a direct threat to the North because it highlights the failures of the Kim regime. Continuing, the president pointed to what he says are countless violations by the North of international nuclear agreements, and that he wouldn’t stand for such conduct as his predecessors have:
“The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past.”
Trump said Tuesday he hoped he was speaking for all civilized nations when he warned:
“Do not underestimate us, and do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty.”
Stating that America “does not seek conflict or confrontation” but that “we will never run from it,” Trump pointed out that “history is filled with discarded regimes that have foolishly tested America’s resolve.”
Then, saying “the time for excuses is over” regarding the North Korea issue, Trump asked all “peace-loving nations of the world” to support the United States’ approach to the Hermit Kingdom — and called out a certain Asian giant directly:
“You cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept. We call on every nation, including China and Russia, to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions, downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, and sever all ties of trade and technology.”
He added that “those nations that choose to ignore this threat, or, worse still, to enable it, the weight of this crisis is on your conscience.”
While it remains to be seen if Trump’s tough talk in South Korea will bear any actual fruit during his visit with Xi, it does appear that, at a minimum, the Chinese president is attempting to extend an olive branch. From Reuters on Tuesday:
“Chinese tour operators based in the border city of Dandong have been told to halt trips to the North Korean capital Pyongyang, five sources told Reuters on Tuesday, the day before U.S. President Donald Trump’s first official visit to China.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping will host Trump in Beijing on Wednesday, with North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons expected to top their agenda. The United States has been pressuring China to do more to rein in its neighbor and ally.
“Tourism is one of the few remaining ways North Korea earns hard currency, as the United Nations has ramped up sanctions on the country over the past year, curbing key export industries including coal, seafood and textiles.”