Trump Thanks Chinese President For Visit, U.S. Military For Syria Attack

AP

In a series of tweets Saturday morning, President Donald Trump thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for the “honor” of his two-day visit to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and congratulated “our great military men and women” who were involved in the missile attack he ordered Thursday night against a Syrian airfield.

Trump noted that “only time will tell” whether the two countries’ trade relationship would improve.

The tweets came on the heels of what Trump initially projected would be a “very difficult” summit with Xi at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday and Friday, particularly around trade issues and North Korea’s nuclear program.

Asked if the two countries had reached any agreement on opening Chinese markets up to American manufacturers, a frequent campaign promise from Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — standing alongside to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at a press briefing on Friday — said that China had acknowledged the United States’ concerns, but did not go into details.

“I think there was definitely an acknowledgement by them on the trade issue that we do need to get to a more balanced trade environment,” he said. “We did begin those discussions today, but I would just emphasize there was a lot going on in two days. And although we had some specific conversations, as Secretary Ross mentioned, the plan is for us to develop a 100-day plan, and we would expect to see some very specific items on that.”

The summit was was largely overshadowed by Trump’s Thursday night order of a missile strike against a Syrian airfield, following a suspected poison gas attack carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces on Tuesday.

At the press briefing, Tillerson told reporters that Trump had alerted Xi of the missile strike at the end of their dinner together Thursday night.

“President Xi I think expressed an appreciation for the President letting him know and providing the rationale and said, as it was told to me, indicated that he understood that such a response is necessary when people are killing children,” Tillerson said, describing the exchange.

Trump himself said of the missile strike Thursday night, reading from a prepared statement, that it was in the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

There has been some congressional pushback over the strike, especially over the prospect that Trump could move to become more militarily involved in the years-long Syrian conflict without congressional approval.

But, as White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Friday afternoon, Trump asked aides about reactions from congressional and world leaders Thursday night to the strike, “and was informed that there was fairly unanimous praise for the decision and the actions the President took.”

“If you’ve seen the response from the world community, including some of the countries that you’ve mentioned, I think that they understand that the U.S. acted appropriately and, in most cases, there is widespread praise from around the globe for the President’s actions,” Spicer added later, responding to a reporter who asked about the risk that the strike could draw Russia or Iran into a broader conflict.

At the press briefing with Tillerson and Ross, Mnuchin told reporters that he would soon announce additional sanctions on Syria “as part of our ongoing effort to stop this type of activity and emphasize how significant we view this.”

Asked to elaborate, he said simply: “I would just say we view sanctions as being a very important tool, whether it’s North Korea or whether it’s Syria. These sanctions are very important and we will use them to the maximum effect.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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