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Trump drops China bashing during warm Xi summit
By Andrew BEATTY
Palm Beach, United States (AFP) April 8, 2017


Trump's far-right backers rebel over 'hoax' Syria attack
Washington (AFP) April 8, 2017 - Far-right backers of US President Donald Trump rebelled Friday after he ordered a missile strike to punish Syria for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people.

Bandying the hashtag #Syriahoax, leaders of the "Alt-Right" white nationalist fringe lashed out at the president for abandoning his election campaign stances.

Some denied the suspected chemical attack took place. Others rejected the broadly accepted view that it was the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Instead, they blamed anti-Assad fighters like the al-Sham Front, formerly al-Nusra, for a so-called false-flag attack meant to be pinned on Damascus.

Still others said Trump had fallen victim to the US "deep state," an ostensibly entrenched military-national security bureaucracy at odds with the new president's anti-Washington views.

"Anyone who claimed Trump had blind loyalty had a wake-up call today," said Mike Cernovich, one of the movement's most prominent leaders and a popularizer of often unfounded conspiracy theories.

"We all know that Assad would not poison his own people," he said in an online video.

"We do know that the Deep State does want war with Russia, and they are using the Syria gas attack, which is a hoax, to start World War Three with Russia."

Alex Jones, whose "Infowars" website is a hub for the far-right movement, but others allege is a wellspring of the "fake news" phenomenon, alleged that Tuesday's attack was launched by Syrian opposition.

"Why would Assad do that when he is winning?" he asked in a webcast.

Jones argued it was a ruse to force Trump into line with Washington's more traditional conservatives.

"If he gives in to this anti-Syria thing to prove he's not a Russian puppet, they're not going to stop. They are already saying Syria is his fault," Jones said.

- Breitbart stays neutral -

Most mainstream conservatives endorsed Trump's order to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military air base to punish and warn the Assad regime.

But the far right was angered over what it sees is an abandonment of Trump's nationalist and isolationist campaign positions.

Ann Coulter, a favorite pundit of conservatives, pointed to Trump's 2013 tweets opposing any increase in US military involvement in the Middle East.

"We should stay the hell out of Syria," said Trump, then a property tycoon mulling a White House bid.

On Thursday, Coulter tweeted: "Those who wanted us meddling in the Middle East voted for other candidates."

"Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast. Said it always helps our enemies & creates more refugees. Then he saw a picture on TV," she said, referring to photographs of the 27 children killed in the chemical attack.

Such anger though did not extend to Breitbart, the news website formerly run by and still closely allied with Steve Bannon, Trump's anti-globalist White House strategist. Breitbart took a neutral stance in coverage of the attack.

John Binder, a Breitbart writer, argued via Twitter that Bannon was against the strikes. "He's the voice of #Americafirst voters in the administration," Binder said, without offering evidence.

Sebastien Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, tried Friday to rally the critics back to the fold.

"It is essential for... those who voted for this administration to understand that the president in his fundamental outlook has not changed," he said on the radio broadcast of conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham.

US President Donald Trump ditched his trademark anti-China bombast, hailing an "outstanding" relationship with counterpart Xi Jinping at the end of a superpower summit Friday overshadowed by events in Syria.

"We have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China," Trump said effusively at the close of a high-stakes but studiously familiar first meeting between the pair at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

"I think truly progress has been made," Trump said, declaring his relationship with Xi as "outstanding."

The friendly tone was a far cry from Trump's acerbic campaign denouncements about China's "rape" of the US economy and his vow to punish Beijing with punitive tariffs.

Xi reciprocated Trump's warm words, saying the summit had "uniquely important significance" and thanking Trump for a warm reception.

Beijing's most powerful leader in decades also invited the neophyte US president on a coveted state visit to China later in the year. Trump accepted, with a date yet to be determined.

We "arrived at many common understandings," Xi added, "the most important being deepening our friendship and building a kind of trust."

The bonhomie extended behind closed doors, where the US president's grandson and granddaughter sang a traditional Chinese ballad -- "Jasmine Flower" -- and recited poetry for their honored guests, earning praise from their "very proud" mother Ivanka in a tweet.

"Both the atmosphere and the chemistry between the two leaders was positive, the posture between the two really set the tone," said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"All of us are feeling very good about the results of this summit."

- Winter White House -

The start of the meeting came on a night of high drama as Trump not only met his nearest peer in economic world power for the first time but also launched his first military strike on a state target.

Trump informed the Chinese leader personally of the strike as the 59 Tomahawk missiles were winding their way to the Shayrat airbase.

Although China is not implicated in the Syrian war, Trump's actions resonate widely, not least in the debate over how to tackle North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

China and the United States agree Pyongyang's programs are a serious problem, but have not seen eye-to-eye on how to respond.

"There is a real commitment to work together to see if this cannot be resolved in a peaceful way," said Tillerson.

Trump asked Xi for ideas on how to proceed, but held out the possibility of unilateral action.

"(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us," said Tillerson.

- Deliverables -

There appeared to be little in the way of concrete achievements during 24 hours in the sun, but officials said that a rapport had been built that will carry on the next four years.

The US leader appeared confident when Xi arrived at the Florida venue, even hazarding a joke about his own reputation as a dealmaker.

"We had a long discussion already. So far, I have gotten nothing. Absolutely nothing," he said to laughs from the delegation.

"But I can see that, I think long-term, we are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it."

The two leaders were joined Thursday evening by US First Lady Melania Trump, a former model, and Peng Liyuan -- a celebrated folk singer Trump hailed as a "great, great celebrity."

There was little evidence of Xi's promised "tweetable deliverables" designed to smooth ties, but they may be rolled out during a 100-day plan on trade.

Sources briefed on Xi's plans promised a package of Chinese investments aimed at creating more than 700,000 American jobs -- the same number China's regional rival Japan pledged to Trump during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Mar-a-Lago visit in February.

In return, Xi hoped to obtain assurances from Trump on punitive tariffs and the delay of an American arms sale to Taiwan, at least until after a major Communist Party meeting later this year.

Trump's position on democratically ruled Taiwan -- which China considers part of its territory awaiting reunification -- has been a major irritant since he accepted a protocol-breaking phone call from the Taiwanese president after his election victory.

The US leader apparently did speak to Xi about another thorny issue, telling him of "the importance of protecting human rights and other values deeply held by Americans," the White House reported.

SUPERPOWERS
Philippine military to upgrade island facilities, not launch land grab
Manila (AFP) April 7, 2017
The Philippines' military said Friday that it plans to upgrade and improve facilities on islands it already occupies in the disputed South China Sea, not embark on a new land grab. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that he had ordered the armed forces to "occupy all" remote reefs claimed by Manila. Rival claimant Beijing responded Friday with a pledge to "firmly safeguar ... read more

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