- Trump-Xi Summit Accomplishment: Getting to Know One Another
U.S. officials said President Donald Trump’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week was an opportunity for the leaders of the world’s two largest economies to get to know each other and set up future meetings.
That was the biggest accomplishment after about 18 hours together at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort — a visit punctuated by a U.S. missile strike on Syria Thursday night. There were no trade or investment deals announced, no agreement to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, no plan stitched together to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.
A statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer late Friday cited an array of topics the pair and their contingents discussed, from North Korea to cybersecurity to protecting human rights, and said Trump and Xi “established a new and cabinet-level framework” for future talks.
“We have very similar economic interests and there are areas where they clearly want to work with us,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Friday. “The objective is for us to increase our exports to them.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross added that “the most interesting thing to me was they expressed an interest in reducing their net trade balance because of the impact it’s having on money supply and inflation. That’s the first time I’d heard them say that.’’
Trump tweeted on Saturday that the meetings had created “tremendous goodwill and friendship” but that “only time will tell on trade.”
China’s leaders in fact have long been concerned about the yawning U.S. trade deficit with their country, $347 billion in 2016. Ross said the two countries agreed to a “100-day plan” to discuss trade; there were few details.
In tone and results, the summit was similar to a 2013 meeting between Xi and President Barack Obama in Rancho Mirage, California, that also produced little by way of tangible announcements. But Trump’s inaugural visit with Xi had a little more drama.
Trump upended the meeting by ordering the launch of dozens of cruise missiles at Syrian targets on Thursday, just before Xi’s arrival in Florida. The missile strike overshadowed the summit and also increased tension between the two countries over North Korea, days after Trump said in an interview with the Financial Times that he’s willing to take unilateral action against a regime flouting international norms.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “there was no kind of package arrangement discussed to resolve” tensions with North Korea, adding that Xi agreed the situation “has reached a very serious stage in terms of the advancement.”
Trump told Xi the U.S. would “chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us,” Tillerson said.
In his statement, Spicer said the two sides “noted the urgency of the threat” of Pyongyang’s weapons programs, “reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean peninsula, and committed to fully implement UN Security council resolutions.”
For China, the meeting was probably a success. Much of the Communist Party’s top leadership will change during a congress later this year, and in the run-up to that event, “Xi Jinping just wants the United States off his back,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The two leaders appeared to develop a rapport, she said.
‘Positive and Fruitful’
China’s official news agency Xinhua said Saturday that the “positive and fruitful” meetings have sent a “clear-cut” message that Washington and Beijing can become great cooperative partners.
The presidents didn’t mention the Syria attack, and even steered clear in their public remarks of issues like trade that were supposed to dominate the summit.
They remarked generally about “progress” in their relationship and optimism about the future. That could indicate that the relationship between the two countries remains stable, despite Trump’s fiery accusations during his campaign, and afterward, that China has stolen U.S. manufacturing jobs.
“The relationship developed by President Xi and myself, I think, is outstanding,’’ Trump said Friday during a meeting between the two countries’ delegations. “I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away.’’ In a posting on its website on Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said the countries had agreed to “properly” deal with issues of trade friction.
Strolling the Grounds
Xi thanked Trump for his hospitality and said the meeting had served the purpose of advancing the U.S.-China relationship.
“We had long and in-depth communication,’’ Xi said through a translator. “And, more importantly, we have further built up understanding and establish a kind of trust, and we have initially built up a working relationship and friendship.’’
The two leaders were later photographed strolling the grounds of Trump’s waterfront resort. Trump accepted Xi’s invitation to visit China later this year, Tillerson said.
Another matter that didn’t come up was the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s nuclear reactor business. Toshiba Corp., Westinghouse’s parent company, has sought a buyer for the unit and Trump administration officials are so concerned about Chinese investors obtaining control of it that they have sought an American or allied purchaser.
“We have been looking very carefully at that,” Ross said. Mnuchin added that “any such transaction” would have to be reviewed by the Committee on Financial Investment in the U.S., which can block sales of U.S. companies to foreign investors.
The friendly banter between the leaders belied growing tension in the relationship after Trump’s public criticisms of China and his promises to extract concessions from the country on trade and North Korea.
“We have been treated unfairly and have made terrible trade deals with China for many, many years,’’ Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday as he flew to Palm Beach. “That’s one of the things we are going to be talking about.’’
His Cabinet secretaries said that Trump indeed confronted Xi.
“President Trump noted the challenges caused by Chinese government intervention into its economy,” Tillerson said Friday. ““The president underscored the need for China to take concrete steps to level the playing field for American workers, stressing repeatedly the need for reciprocal market access.”
Trump informed Xi of the missile strike as they were dining, roughly when 59 Tomahawk missiles were hitting a Syrian airfield. Trump told reporters the strike was in response to a nerve gas attack by the Syrian regime against civilians Tuesday.
The Chinese have opposed efforts to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power and probably took offense at the attack, said Dennis Wilder, former senior director for Asia during the George W. Bush administration.
“For President Xi, this will be embarrassing internationally because in so many settings and so many venues China has condemned the United States for unilateral military action in the past, and this is certainly a unilateral action,’’ he said. “I think that the Chinese will be expressing some anger privately to the United States.’’
China’s public probably won’t regard the strike as a message to their leaders unless the Trump administration makes the case explicitly, said Doug Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
“I doubt the Chinese in the end think this was really done as a message to Beijing,’’ said Paal, who who served as Asian affairs director in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.
But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.
Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”
Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.
INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.
INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.
Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.
“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.
“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
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