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Trump gets grand welcome

Profile image for Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin
Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin, Associated Press

Tough talks ahead in Beijing, including trade, North Korea

BEIJING -- China rolled out the red carpet for President Donald Trump on Thursday, treating him to an elaborate welcome ceremony on the plaza outside the Great Hall of the People before the leaders turned to their private talks.

Trump looked on approvingly as a Chinese honor guard played the national anthems of both countries, cannons boomed and soldiers marched. He clapped and smiled as children waving U.S. and Chinese flags and flowers screamed and jumped wildly.

But thorny issues await Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping behind closed doors, including potential tensions over trade and China's willingness to put the squeeze on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

Before arriving, Trump delivered a stern message to Beijing, using an address to the National Assembly in South Korea to call on nations to confront the North.

"All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea," Trump said. "You cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept."

He called on "every nation, including China and Russia," to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea enforcing sanctions aimed at depriving its government of revenue for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The latest measure, adopted after a September atomic test explosion, the North's largest yet, banned imports of its textiles and prohibited new work permits for overseas North Korean laborers. It also restricted exports of some petroleum products.

Trump's words drew a caustic response from North Korean state media, which issued a statement Wednesday saying the U.S. should "oust the lunatic old man from power" and withdraw its "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang "in order to get rid of the abyss of doom."

White House officials said Trump would underscore his public messages about North Korea when he and Xi sit down for private talks on Thursday. China is North Korea's largest trading partner and Trump is expected to demand that the nation curtail its dealings with Pyongyang and expel North Korean workers from its borders. Trump has praised China for taking some steps against Pyongyang, but he wants them to do more.

China is increasingly disenchanted with North Korea over its nuclear weapons development but remains wary of using its full economic leverage over its traditional ally. It fears triggering a collapse of the North's totalitarian regime that could cause an influx of refugees into northeastern China and culminate in a U.S.-allied unified Korea on its border.

China also poured on the pomp and pageantry for Trump's arrival Wednesday. The president and first lady Melania Trump were greeted at the airport by dozens of jumping children who waved U.S. and Chinese flags. The couple spent the first hours of their visit on a private tour of the Forbidden City, Beijing's ancient imperial palace. It's usually teeming with tourists but was closed to the public for the presidential visit.

FEATURED PHOTO: Children participate in a welcome ceremony for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Andrew Harnik/AP)