Politics

China eyeing Trump's late May Japan trip for potential Xi summit

Key Points
  • Chinese officials are identifying international travel dates on President Donald Trump's calendar that might offer potential for a summit away from U.S. soil, three sources briefed on the negotiations said.
  • At the top of the list is Trump's expected visit to Japan at the end of May, which puts him in the Asia-Pacific region around the time negotiations are expected to conclude.
  • It's just one of the options being considered, the sources said.
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As the U.S. and China work through the final stages of trade negotiations, Chinese officials are identifying international travel dates on President Donald Trump's calendar that might offer potential for a summit away from U.S. soil, according to three sources briefed on negotiations.

One trip in particular that's risen to the top of the list: Trump's expected visit to Japan at the end of May, putting him in the Asia-Pacific region around the time negotiations are expected to conclude.

Neither the White House nor the Embassy of Japan would confirm the trip, in which Trump would be the first foreign leader received by Crown Prince Naruhito after he accedes to the throne on May 1.

But the three sources briefed on the negotiations, requesting anonymity to protect their relationships with the Trump administration, said it's one option being considered. An administration official acknowledged holding the summit in Asia is China's preference, though it remains unclear where the final location will be. Trump has said the summit could happen on either continent and that he expects a resolution by the end of May.

"I would say we'll know over the next four weeks," Trump told reporters gathered in the Oval Office on April 5 for an event with the Chinese vice premier. "It may take two weeks after that to get it papered, but over the next fairly short period of time, we're going to know."

While that timeline would put the target end date right around Trump's trip to Japan, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said talks would not be bound by an "arbitrary timeline," and the South China Morning Post threw cold water on a deal being done by then.

Erin Ennis, senior vice president at the US-China Business Council, suggested a later June meeting – perhaps on the sidelines of the G20 at the end of the month – would be more feasible.

"It seems like both sides want to have the deal completed first before they're willing to discuss when and where a summit would happen," Ennis told CNBC.

In late January, China initially invited Pres. Trump to meet Pres. Xi on the island of Hainan in the South China Sea. The White House countered with Mar-a-Lago, one venue that still remains under consideration. But China has also suggested that if its president were to travel to the U.S. solely to announce a trade agreement, it would need to be in the form of an official state visit. The two sides have been discussing a potential state visit by Xi since 2018.

The May 26-28 trip was previously reported by the Japan Times.