FLORIDA, US – The U.S. official told Reuters that Washington expects to have to prepare its own actions to fight for U.S. companies, such as pursuing World Trade Organization lawsuits.
“We have the legal tools and a lot of authorities that have not been exercised in the past to fight back and you now have the political will, from the president on down, to do that,” the official said.
The summit will bring together two leaders who could not seem more different: the often stormy Trump, prone to angry tweets, and Xi, outwardly calm, measured and tightly scripted, with no known social media presence.
What worries the protocol-conscious Chinese more than policy clashes is the risk that the unpredictable Trump could publicly embarrass Xi, after several foreign leaders experienced awkward moments with the new U.S. president.
“Ensuring President Xi does not lose face is a top priority for China,” a Chinese official said.
The most urgent problem facing Trump and Xi is how to persuade nuclear-armed North Korea to halt unpredictable behavior like missile test launches that have heightened tensions in South Korea and Japan.
North Korea is working to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States.
The White House has said North Korea was a test for the U.S.-China relationship, and Trump has threatened to use trade to try to force China to exert influence over Pyongyang.
Beijing says its influence is limited and that it is doing all it can but that it is up to the United States to find a way back to talks with North Korea.
Trump consulted on Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said he and the president agreed by phone that North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch was “a dangerous provocation and a serious threat.”
A White House strategy review is focusing on options for pressuring Pyongyang economically and militarily. Among measures under consideration are “secondary sanctions” against Chinese banks and firms that do the most business with Pyongyang.
“We have not in any way put the kind of sanctions on North Korea that we have the ability to do,” the U.S. administration official said.
“I think there is an understanding here that if you put those types of sanctions on North Korea then the military option is not really necessary,” the official said.
A long-standing option of pre-emptive strikes remains on the table, but despite the tougher recent U.S. talk, the internal review “de-emphasizes direct military action,” the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Analysts believe any military action would likely provoke severe North Korean retaliation and massive casualties in South Korea and Japan and among U.S. troops stationed there.