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(4th LD) Trump, Xi agree to work together to convince N. Korea to curb nuclear program

2017/04/08 05:25

(ATTN: UPDATES with briefing; CHANGES headline)

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Friday to work closely together to persuade North Korea to curb its nuclear program, an official said, as they held their first formal summit talks overshadowed by surprise U.S. military strikes against Syria the previous night.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also said during a briefing on the results of the summit that the U.S. is prepared to chart its "own course" if necessary, echoing Trump's repeated warning that he would act alone unless China helps rein in the North, according to news reports.

Trump and Xi also shared the view that the North's nuclear program has reached a "serious stage," Tillerson was quoted as saying by Reuters.

No further details were available.

The talks were almost completely overshadowed by Thursday night's U.S. missile attack on Syria.

The surprise Tomahawk missile strikes, which came in response to Syria's use of deadly chemical weapons against civilians earlier this week, was seen as a powerful message to North Korea, Iran and other rogue states that Trump can take military action against them at any time.

After the strikes, Trump addressed the nation and said that it is in the "vital national interest" of the U.S. to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. The same could be said of the nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles Pyongyang has long pursued.

The attack could also be a message to China that the U.S. may act on its own unless China reins in the North.

Earlier in the day, Trump said that "tremendous progress" was made in U.S. relations with China.

"I think we have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China. My representatives have been meeting one-on-one with their counterparts from China and I think truly progress has been made. We'll be making a lot of additional progress," Trump said after talks with Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

"The relationship developed by President Xi and myself I think is outstanding. We look forward to being together many times in the future and I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away," he said without elaborating.

It was unclear if the "bad problems" include North Korea.

In response, Xi said the two sides "arrived at many common understandings," including the need to deepen friendship.

"I believe that with the passage of time we will make efforts to bear our great historical responsibility for promoting the development of Sino-US relations, to create prosperity for both countries and their people and to uphold global peace and stability," Xi said.

The summit came as North Korea has been ratcheting up tensions with a series of banned ballistic missile launches, including the latest one earlier this week, in pursuit of the development of a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S.

Trump has long said North Korea is China's problem to fix, criticizing Beijing for refusing to use its influence over Pyongyang. He had even questioned why the U.S. should stick to the "One China" policy of recognizing only Beijing, not Taiwan, when China is not helping with the North Korea problem, though he later promised to respect the policy.

China, considered the only country with any meaningful influence over the North, has been reluctant to use its leverage for fears that pushing the regime too hard could result in instability in the North and even its collapse, which could lead to the emergence of a pro-U.S. nation on its border.

Trump said in an interview with the Financial Times published Sunday that China should help with the problem by using the "great influence" it has over Pyongyang, warning that if it doesn't, the U.S. will solve the problem on its own, and that "won't be good for anyone."

   The Trump administration has shown increasing impatience with the North, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson openly mentioning the possibility of using military options during a trip to South Korea last month. After Tuesday's missile launch by the North, Tillerson issued an unusually blunt statement saying the U.S. "has spoken enough about North Korea."

   The summit was also watched closely as to whether the U.S. stands up to China for bullying South Korea for hosting the U.S. THAAD missile defense system designed to defend better against ever-growing missile threats from North Korea.

It was unclear if the issue was raised during the talks.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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