US President Donald Trump departed Thursday for Florida for his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping amid tensions over North Korea, trade and other issues.
Air Force One departed from Joint Base Andrews in rainy weather shortly after 12:30 pm (1630 GMT).
Few details have been released on the leaders’ agenda apart from plans for Trump and Xi to dine Thursday night at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate with their respective wives Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan before holding a series of meetings on Friday.
The Republican president, whose stance on China has been in flux, will be closely watched for signals as to the direction of US relations with the rising Asian giant under his administration.
“It’s going to be very interesting. Nobody really knows,” Trump said on Fox News before his departure.
Reaffirming his dim view of US-Chinese trade relations, Trump insisted the United States has “not been treated fairly on trade for many, many years.”
“No president has taken care of this the way they should have,” he added.
According to diplomatic sources in Beijing, Xi might make concessions on trade and investment if he obtains guarantees that Washington will renounce a big arms deal with Taiwan.
Washington has been pressing Beijing for weeks to step up the pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and missile tests.
“We have a big problem with North Korea and we are going to see what happens. We’re going to see what happens,” Trump said.
“We’ll be in there pitching and I think we are going to do very well,” he said.
On Thursday, Pyongyang threatened to deliver “the most ruthless blow” if there is “even the smallest provocation” from the United States.