U.S. missile strike on Syria punctuated Trump talks with China’s Xi on North Korea

by WorldTribune Staff, April 7, 2017

U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian airbase came as President Donald Trump and China leader Xi JInping, meeting for the first time, were discussing what should be done about North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction.

China did not immediately respond to President Donald Trump’s retaliatory strike on the Assad regime for its chemical weapons attack earlier in the week, but analysts said Beijing was likely to be both angered and impressed by the strikes.

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping and their wives, Peng Liyuan and Melania Trump, at Mar-a-Lago. /AP

Russia and Iran are the two states that have denounced the missile strikes.

Bonnie Glaser, a Chinese foreign policy analyst, told the Guardian that Beijing would view Trump’s move as proof he was not afraid of taking bold military action, a reality that had potential implications both in North Korea and the South China Sea.

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“The fact that he did this while Xi Jinping is in Mar-a-Lago is quite telling. None of this is planned, in my view. But I do think it necessarily sends a signal to Xi Jinping that this is a president that means business. That he is not going to sit around and spend and enormous amount of time weighing through things. He is just going to act very decisively … I think they will view him with respect.”

“This is probably not a welcome development” for Xi and the Chinese “in terms of optics,” said Paul Haenle, a U.S. diplomat who advised George W. Bush and Barack Obama on China policy.

“It somewhat weakens the image of Xi as a strong statesman on the world stage. It will distract from coverage of the summit in U.S. media. But more importantly, I think it says a lot about the U.S. power and preeminent leadership role. It’s hard to imagine any other country in the world making that kind of unilateral strike – certainly not China.”

Trump on April 6 hailed the beginning of “a very, very great relationship” as he met with Xi at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strike had seriously damaged ties between Washington and Moscow. Putin, a staunch ally of Assad, regarded the U.S. action as “aggression against a sovereign nation” on a “made-up pretext,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russian television showed craters and rubble at the site of the airbase and said nine aircraft had been destroyed.

Iran, which also backs Assad, denounced the U.S. strike, saying it was “dangerous, destructive and a violation of international laws” to use chemical weapons as an excuse for unilateral action.