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Would the Syria strike affect China's bargaining position on North Korea?|
Zhang Baohui, a professor of political science at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said the big issue was whether the Syria strike would affect China's bargaining position on North Korea.
President Trump went into the meeting saying Beijing needs to do more to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, which have been accelerating.
Hours before the two presidents met, Trump predicted aboard Air Force One that "China will be stepping up" to help stop North Korea's nuclear program.
The concern for the Chinese, Zhang said, is that Trump just gave the world proof he's not afraid to take military action unilaterally.
"This strike may ironically strengthen Trump's bargaining position," Zhang said. "The decision to launch a strike may not be linked to the summit per se, but the outcome -- this development -- may strengthen (his position), because many Chinese strategic thinkers, they do think the United States is considering a preemptive option on North Korea."
Global Times, a provocative but state-run Chinese tabloid that often takes hard-line stances, ran an editorial saying Trump was "flexing his muscle" with the action in Syria.
"This is his first major decision on international affairs, and his haste and inconsistency has left people with a deep impression," the Global Times said.
"He wanted to prove that he dares to do what Obama did not dare. While Obama was equivocal, his attitude is clear-cut. He also proves to the world that he isn't merely a 'businessman president.' He will mobilize US military force without any hesitation when necessary," it added.