BEIJING — President Trump heaped praise on President Xi Jinping of China on Thursday, saying he was confident China would help defuse the threat from North Korea and reduce its trade imbalance with the United States, which he blamed on his own predecessors, not the Chinese.
Trump, speaking in Beijing, called on Xi to redouble Chinese pressure on the North over its nuclear and missile programs, declaring, “We have it in our power to liberate the world” from the North Korean “menace.”
While the president vowed to redress chronic trade imbalances, he framed them as a failure of U.S. policy, even saluting Xi for leading a country that had left the United States “so far behind” and saying he could not blame the Chinese for taking advantage of the Americans.
Trump did call on China to open up its market, but he came to Beijing without any specific proposals for doing so, preferring to celebrate a slew of U.S. investment deals with Chinese companies, which the two sides claimed were worth more than $250 billion.
As he sat down with Xi in the Great Hall of the People, Trump instead kept the focus on personal rapport. He spoke of Xi as a friend with whom he had “great chemistry,” marveling at the hospitality Xi had shown him, which included a full-dress military parade in Tiananmen Square and a sunset tour of the Forbidden City.
“You’re a very special man,” Trump told Xi before reporters.
Congratulating Xi on his consolidation of power at a recent Communist Party congress, Trump said, “Perhaps now more than ever we have an opportunity to strengthen our relationship.”
Xi did not return the favor. He made no reference to the anniversary Wednesday of Trump’s election victory — as the leaders of Japan and South Korea did — and instead stuck largely to a familiar script in which he said China and the United States could peacefully coexist if they respected each other’s political systems.
“I told the president that the Pacific is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States,” Xi said.
Xi agreed with Trump on the need to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. He said China and the United States should strictly enforce U.N. Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang but did not announce additional Chinese measures. The Trump administration is pressing China to cut off oil shipments, close down North Korean bank accounts and send home tens of thousands of North Koreans who work in China.