US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in California on June 7-8 to discuss a host of issues, possibly including North Korea, cyber attacks, and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The White House announced that both world leaders would sit down for a summit at Rancho Mirage — their first since Xi became China's president in March — and debate "a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues."
China is North Korea's only major ally, and the US — as it has before — may seek China's help in pressuring the impoverished military nation to dismantle its nuclear program, especially in the light of Pyongyang’s recent threats and bellicose rhetoric.
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Cyber attacks, another contentious issue, will surely be on Washington's agenda after reports of China-linked hacks that targeted American newspapers and stole data from companies and government agencies in the United States.
“This is something we are going to have to come back at time and again with the Chinese leadership,” an Obama administration official told The Times, adding, they “have to be convinced there is a real cost to this kind of activity.”
Another potential item on the agenda is the various territorial disputes between nations in the Asia-Pacific region. The most visible and volatile of the rows is the Sino-Japanese dispute over small uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku (in Japan) and Diaoyu (in China).
The islands, controlled by Japan and claimed by China as part of its territory, border strategically important shipping lanes, with the surrounding area possibly containing oil deposits.
"Of course, some differences exist between China and the United States, which require proper and active management by both sides," said Hong Lei, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman. "This year, Sino-US relations have got off to a good start and are facing an important opportunity for development."
As Reuters noted, a two-day summit suggests both leaders intend to establish closer ties. And as the Associated Press pointed out, the White House's decision to forgo the usual spectacle of high-level state visits demonstrates a desire to focus on the issues.
"They will review progress and challenges in US-China relations over the past four years and discuss ways to enhance cooperation, while constructively managing our differences, in the years ahead," the White House said in its statement.
Obama and Xi previously met in 2012, when Xi — then China's leader-in-waiting and vice president — traveled to the US.