Shorenstein APARC experts offer analysis, insights on Xi-Trump summit

xi tillerson U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping upon his arrival on April 6, 2017, to West Palm Beach, Florida.

President Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping last week at Mar-a-Lago for their first meeting which set out to address economic, trade and security challenges shared between the two countries. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) experts offered analysis of the summit to various media outlets.

In advance of the summit, Donald K. Emmerson, an FSI senior fellow emeritus and director of the Southeast Asia Program, wrote a commentary piece urging the two leaders to prioritize the territorial disputes in the South China Sea in their discussions. He also suggested they consider the idea of additional “cooperative missions” among China, the United States and other countries in that maritime area.

“A consensus to discuss the idea at that summit may be unreachable,” Emmerson recognized in The Diplomat Magazine. “But merely proposing it should trigger some reactions, pro or con. The airing of the idea would at least incentivize attention to the need for joint activities based on international law and discourage complacency in the face of unilateral coercion in violation of international law.”

Kathleen Stephens, the William J. Perry Fellow in Shorenstein APARC’s Korea Program, spoke to the Boston Herald about U.S. policy toward North Korea and a potential role for China in pressuring North Korea to hold talks about denuclearization. She addressed the purported reports that the National Security Council is considering as options placing nuclear weapons in South Korea and forcibly removing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un from power.

“The two options have been on the long list of possible options for a long time and they have generally been found to have far too many downsides,” Stephens said in the interview.

Writing for Tokyo Business TodayDaniel Sneider, the associate director for research at Shorenstein APARC, offered an assessment of the summit. He argued that two events - the U.S. airstrike on an airbase in Syria following the regime's chemical weapons attack and the leaked reports about tensions between White House staff - shifted the summit agenda and sidelined, at least for now, talk of a trade war between China and the United States.

“Instead of a bang, the Mar-a-Lago summit ended with a whimper,” Sneider wrote in the analysis piece (available in English and Japanese). “On the economy, the summit conversation was remarkably business-as-usual, with President Trump calling for China to ‘level the playing field’ and a vague commitment to speed up the pace of trade talks. When it came to North Korea…the two leaders reiterated long-standing goals of denuclearization but ‘there was no kind of a package arrangement discussed to resolve this.”