China sanguine as Trump-Xi ‘bromance’ sours over North Korea, Taiwan

By Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd

BEIJING China reacted relatively calmly on Friday after a series of diplomatic broadsides by the United States, expressing anger over new arms sales by Washington to Taiwan but hoping ties could soon be brought back on track.

U.S. officials have said President Donald Trump is growing increasingly frustrated with China over its inability to restrain North Korea’s arms and missile programs.

This week, the United States imposed sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea’s weapons programs, announced a $1.4 billion arms sale for Taiwan, and said it would like sick Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo to be treated “elsewhere”.

It has also placed China on its global list of the worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor and senior U.S. officials have told Reuters that Washington is considering trade actions against Beijing, including tariffs on steel imports.

Trump met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday at the White House and made a point of noting that the United States, India and Japan would be joining together in naval exercises soon in the Indian Ocean, a point that seemed aimed at China.

It’s a long way from the “bromance” that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared to have at their first summit in April. Trump had made a grand gesture of his desire for warm ties in the meeting at his Florida residence and subsequently called Xi a “good man”. [nL4N1I05T1]

While China said it was “outraged” at the arms sales for Taiwan, and upset with the North Korea-related sanctions, it did not make specific threats of retaliation. In 2010, Beijing threatened to sanction U.S. firms that sell weapons to Taiwan after Washington announced a much bigger $6.4 billion arms package.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he hoped the United States can correct its mistakes and get ties back on track “so as to avoid cooperation in important areas being impacted”. He did not elaborate.

Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University and who has advised the government on foreign policy, cautioned against interpreting recent events as indicating a shift in China-U.S. relations, saying it was still too early to tell.

“We had a good first summit and a good beginning but the relationship in the long run is characterized by not just cooperation but also conflict,” Jia said.


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