U.S. Official: President Trump to Meet Chinese President Xi First Week in April

WASHINGTON (AP) -
This combination of file photos shows President Donald Trump (L.) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AP Photo/Files)

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with President Donald Trump the first full week of April, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

The first in-person encounter between the leaders comes after President Trump sharply criticized China during the presidential campaign. But he is now seeking Beijing’s help in pressuring North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Presidents Trump and Xi also are likely to discuss the U.S. president’s threats to counter what he claims are unfair Chinese trade practices. President Trump has promised to raise import taxes on Chinese goods and declare Beijing a currency manipulator. It’s unclear if President Trump will follow through on either threat while seeking China’s cooperation on North Korea.

Though the White House hasn’t formally announced President Xi’s visit, the leaders are expected to gather at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida — where President Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February.

The State Department official confirmed the timing of President Xi’s trip while discussing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s upcoming travel plans.

Tillerson had planned to skip a meeting of NATO foreign ministers scheduled for April 5-6 so he could attend President Xi’s meeting with President Trump, the official said. The NATO gathering in Brussels was rescheduled for Friday so Tillerson could attend, said the official, who briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity even though President Trump has criticized media for using anonymous sources.

Under President Trump, regular opportunities for journalists to question Tillerson or other State Department officials in public have been significantly curtailed.

The agency held no broadcast briefings, a State Department mainstay for decades under administrations of both parties, for six weeks after President Trump’s inauguration. They resumed in March under a new format: two broadcast briefings per week and two over-the-phone briefings.

Now the broadcast briefings have again been canceled, due to staffing changes. Instead, they’re only holding telephone briefings, restricted to one topic per day as chosen by the State Department.

Those calls are held on “background,” meaning journalists can question senior officials but are prohibited from naming them in any stories, and the State Department has declined requests to conduct the calls on the record.

The State Department has said typical, on-the-record briefings may resume soon.