Trump, Xi showdown fails to materialize at Mar-a-Lago

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago, Friday, April 7, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla.

The U.S. missile attack against a Syrian airbase late Thursday added a new dynamic to talks held Friday between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On Air Force One on the way to Florida Trump pointed to the crisis in North Korea as a top priority in the meetings with Xi.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday offered an inside look at the tense moments Trump and his team spent awaiting the outcome of a US military strike on the other side of the world.

Trump had yet to arrive to Florida, but the pair will gather later at his Mar-a-Lago resort - which the United States president likes to call the "Winter White House" - for what promises to be a masterclass in studied informality.

But the strike could set in motion events that force Trump to take a more active role on the world stage, experts said, while others suggested the chemical weapons attack might have changed Trump's outlook on the role the USA should play.

There may also be offers to further open China's auto and agricultural markets, insiders say, and even some concessions on Chinese banks' transactions with North Korea, a vital financial lifeline for the country.

Trump is hardly the first president to change his approach to America's role in the world.

Trump jokingly said he agrees with whatever Xi said. Spicer declined to specify which foreign leaders and members of Congress were informed first. After Tuesday's missile launch by the North, Tillerson issued an unusually blunt statement saying the U.S.

Earlier this month President Trump sent an unmistakable message to China about North Korea, without a metaphor. Trump stated Sunday that if China does not work to end the nuclear weapons program in North Korea, the U.S. will do it alone.

Trump has said the USA will act alone if China doesn't exert more pressure on North Korea.

The official said the mission was aimed at dealing with the "unacceptability" of Assad's use chemical weapons and that Trump's priority focus remains defeating ISIS.

It was unclear if the "bad problems" include North Korea.

Tellingly, Chinese media readouts made no mention of the North Korea issue, despite US briefings placing that item near the top of the agenda.

Earlier in the day, Trump said that "tremendous progress" was made in USA relations with China.

Speaking to reporters while traveling to Florida, Trump suggested a link between "terrible" trade agreements the US has made with China and Pyongyang's provocations. He has ordered construction of a wall along the U.S. -Mexico border and signed executive orders banning entry to the U.S. for people from some majority Muslim countries, including Syria. They say it gives the former real estate mogul breathing room to learn on the job and accept advice from more seasoned advisers.

US officials said the two sides agreed to increase cooperation on trying to get North Korea's to abandon its nuclear weapons program, and China acknowledged the need for more balanced trade with the U.S. The two were expected to discuss North Korea and its aggressive pursuit of nuclear technology and missile expertise. "The decision to launch a strike may not be linked to the summit per se, but the outcome - this development - may strengthen (his position), because many Chinese strategic thinkers, they do think the United States is considering a preemptive option on North Korea". Now, he said, they could use the strike to apply pressure, warning that the regime might be subject to more if they don't cooperate.

Wang referred to recent remarks by State Department and White House officials that they would hold to their assurances to Taiwan under a USA law that established strong unofficial relations after the severing of diplomatic ties in 1979.

Even though the two leaders "want to project themselves as very forceful, very decisive and also getting the best for the benefit of their own countries, they are also anxious not to get into hard negotiating positions", according to Lam.

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