Trump, Xi talk trade, N. Korea in phone call

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed trade and North Korea in a phone call on Tuesday, as Mr Xi's top economic adviser plans additional talks in Washington following last week's trip by US officials to Beijing.

The two men discussed Mr Xi's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and agreed on the importance of continuing sanctions on North Korea until it permanently dismantles its nuclear and missile programmes, according to a statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Mr Trump also affirmed his commitment to ensuring that the US and China have a balanced investment and trade relationship, the statement said.

The call followed Mr Xi's meeting with the North Korean leader in the port city of Dalian over two days this week, the second meeting between top officials of the two Communist allies in less than two months.

Mr Kim told Mr Xi that North Korea does not need nuclear weapons as long as security threats and hostility against the nation are eliminated, Xinhua news agency reported. Mr Kim had a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae In late last month, and is expected to meet Mr Trump, possibly next month.

Last week, a seven-member US delegation to Beijing returned to Washington and briefed Mr Trump on their meeting.

American negotiators, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, issued a lengthy list of demands, according to people familiar with the talks. Chinese state media, after the meeting, struck a positive note.

Vice-Premier Liu He will travel to Washington next week to discuss trade, accepting an invitation from Mr Mnuchin, said China's commerce ministry yesterday.

The US delegation wrapped up two days of talks with Chinese economic officials last Friday with only an agreement to keep talking. Mr Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on as much as US$150 billion (S$200 billion) in Chinese goods, duties that can be imposed after a public comment period ends on May 22.

The two sides appear to be at loggerheads, with both making long lists of demands the other will not meet, analysts say.

Mr Trump wants China to cut its annual trade surplus with the US by at least US$200 billion by the end of 2020 and refrain from retaliation against proposed US tariffs. China wants the US to stop an investigation into the country's acquisition of sensitive American technologies.

"The US has demanded too much. The upcoming visit is unlikely to yield a deal, but may make some progress," said Professor Wang Yong of the School of International Studies at Peking University.

Mr Liu told American business leaders while visiting Washington earlier this year that he would take steps to reform China's economy, according to a person familiar with the situation. Mr Liu said at the time that he had three requests for the Trump administration: Establish a new economic dialogue, name a point person on China issues, and hand over a specific list of demands, the person said.

Dr Liu Li-gang, Citigroup's chief China economist, said in a Bloomberg Television interview from Hong Kong: "Last Thursday and Friday's talk was too demanding and China probably won't accept all the lists as given, but there are a lot of places where both countries can talk more, for example in terms of market access, IP protection, trade practices and, more importantly, Made in China 2025.

"In all these areas, there's wiggle room for both sides to have constructive talks."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline 'Trump, Xi talk trade, N. Korea in phone call'. Print Edition | Subscribe