'Not natural friends': Trump, Xi will be 'odd couple' at first summit

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping meet face-to-face for the first time Thursday, opening a new chapter in the world's most consequential relationship amid growing crises over North Korea and trade. First, it would help him offset some of the trade deficit with China - a top priority for his administration. He has also accused China of manipulating its currency to boost exports.

The U.S. Pacific Command said it detected and tracked what it assessed as North Korean missile launched from land near the eastern city of Sinpo.

Last week, Trump moved to reverse federal regulations established by Obama to curb USA carbon emissions, casting doubt on the United States' ability to meet its obligations under a global climate agreement signed in Paris in 2015 that includes China.

In this Dec. 2, 2016 photo released by Taiwan Presidential Office, Dec. 3, 2016, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump through a speaker phone in Taipei, Taiwan.

"There are big opportunities for the Chinese as a effect of the America first policy", said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a global risk assessment firm.

When American and Chinese leaders learn about each other's countries - their cultures, histories, politics and people - they build bonds of understanding that encourage problem-solving, not saber-rattling.

Believing it would work, Xi is expected to offer big-ticket investments in building back USA factories and infrastructure lifelines while paying nominal lip service promising to put more pressure on North Korea and respect rules in the South China Sea.

China has warned the USA not to get involved in its disputes with other nations over the South China Sea.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has noted several "big problems" between the United States and China.

In an interview last weekend with the Financial Times, Trump suggested he would consider using the threat of trade sanctions as leverage to persuade Beijing to act with regard to Pyongyang.

Increased tensions in North Korea would nearly certainly prompt an larger USA military presence in Northeast Asia, encroaching on what China increasingly sees as its sphere of influence.

The North Korean long-range missile programme - on which there are different versions, with the USA administration's deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, claiming that there is a "real possibility" North Korea could be capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear-armed missile by the end of Trump's first term, and intelligence experts disagreeing, saying that its ability to launch a nuclear missile is at least "years away" - does indeed pose a threat and could create a serious crisis, regionally and internationally.

After a series of increasingly provocative missile tests, the White House is seeking a new North Korea strategy to replace the failed approach of "strategic patience" employed by former President Barack Obama's administration.

Trump said in an interview with the "Financial Times" that the USA was prepared to act alone if China did not take a tougher stand against North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. That would give USA companies the first right of refusal to replace North Korean coal with their own.

North Korea is pushing hard to upgrade its weapons systems to cope with what it calls US hostility.

Economic sanctions and global negotiations have failed over the years to persuade North Korea to stop its missile building and nuclear development.

"So the question is whether Washington is willing to, and able to, make concessions giving Beijing enough incentives so that the Chinese government will make a fundamental shift in its dealings with the leadership in Pyongyang".

Last month, however, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised eyebrows during a visit to Beijing when he appeared to endorse Xi's vision by parroting some of the language used by Chinese leaders. From the USA point of view, China keeps North Korea's economy alive, from its collapse, has the most influence on the Pyongyang regime, etc, etc.

"We would have loved to see North Korea join the community of nations".

"I think that is a very plausible action because it doesn't look necessarily warlike".

Yun Sun is with the Stimson Center policy institute in Washington, D.C. She told VOA she believes China will send Xi to the United States with a "generous gift package" in hand. "And if they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don't, it won't be good for anyone", Mr Trump was quoted as saying.

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  • Leroy Wright