President Donald Trump is hosting China talks with President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago for their first summit.
President Trump said they had “developed a friendship” as they sat for dinner at Mar-a-Lago.
He is expected to press President Xi for action on North Korea, and the Chinese leader to seek assurances on Taiwan.
President Trump has said the summit “will be a very difficult one”. In 2016, he accused China of “raping the US”.
During the election campaign, Donald Trump said massive trade deficits and job losses could no longer be tolerated. However, at dinner on April 6, it was all smiles, with the leaders’ two wives, folk singer Peng Liyuan and First Lady Melania Trump also in attendance.
The meeting was, however, largely overshadowed later by a US airstrike on an airbase in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack.
Despite his tough campaign talk, Donald Trump has so far not followed through on his threat to formally brand China a “currency manipulator”, nor to hit Chinese imports with punitive tariffs.
His blue-collar supporters will hope he can translate his China-bashing election rhetoric into concrete gains for American manufacturing workers.
One of the most urgent issues for the US is North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US with a nuclear device.
North Korea fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on April 5, the latest in a series of launches.
Although Beijing has condemned this and previous missile tests, it has so far been reluctant to isolate its neighbor, fearing its collapse could spawn a refugee crisis and bring the US military to its doorstep.
Donald Trump is expected to call on Xi Jinping to arm-twist North Korea into halting its nuclear program by denying it access to banking institutions.
The president told the Financial Times this week he was prepared to act unilaterally, saying: “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”
A senior White House official said North Korea would be a key test for the Trump-Xi relationship.
“The clock is very, very quickly running out,” the official said.
“All options are on the table for us.”
For his part, President Xi Jinping will seek assurances from President Donald Trump on US arms sales to Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province that must eventually reunify with the mainland.
Donald Trump outraged China in December when he took the unorthodox step of accepting a phone call from the Taiwanese president.
However, he later agreed to respect the “one China” policy in a telephone call with President Xi Jinping in February.
Climate change, which Donald Trump once dismissed as a Chinese hoax, and Beijing’s building of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, could also come up.
Some protesters lined the streets on April 6 to voice their opposition to China’s policy in the South China Sea.
President Xi Jinping’s visit will conclude with a working lunch on April 7.
However, there is unlikely to be any golf on the agenda. While Donald Trump is fond of hitting the fairway, Xi Jinping’s administration has cracked down on the sport in an anti-corruption drive.