Chinese President Xi Jinping offered a degree of support for the U.S. missile strikes on Syria Thursday evening, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The Trump administration ordered the bombing of a Syrian airbase and indicated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be removed from power, in response to a chemical weapons attack the Pentagon believes Assad ordered. President Donald Trump ordered the strikes on Syria before dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday, reports Reuters.
Xi was informed of that strikes at the conclusion of his meal with Trump, the White House said Friday. And according to Tillerson, the Chinese president told Trump that he “understood that such a response was necessary when people are killing children” and expressed “appreciation” that the president took the time to explain the details of and purpose behind the strike on the Syrian airfield.
China has generally supported the Syrian regime. Chinese Rear Admiral Guan Youfei met with Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij in Damascus last August and offered military training and humanitarian services, for example. “China and Syria’s militaries have traditionally maintained a friendly relationship, and China’s military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Syria’s military,” Guan told the Syrian defense minister during the meeting.
China, alongside Russia, used its veto power on the United Nations Security Council multiple times to kill resolutions calling for sanctions against Syria for its illegal chemical weapons activities.
Assad called China a “real friend, a friend that you can rely on,” just last month.
“We have noted the latest developments,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in response to questions about the U.S. missile strikes on Syria, adding, “What is imperative now is to prevent further deterioration of the situation and uphold the hard-won process of political settlement of the Syrian issue.”
While Trump’s meeting with Xi was largely overshadowed by the strikes on Syria, the two state leaders reportedly made “tremendous progress” on several key issues, ranging from North Korea to trade. It is, however, unclear what was diplomatic courtesy and what will actually yield results. Overall, it appears the meeting did little more than produce calls for increased cooperation and dialogue, but it’s a start.
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