China's Xi to meet top US trade officials

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"From their point of view, they would have dodged a bullet", Green, who was USTR's top official at the US embassy in Beijing until mid-2018, told Reuters.

However, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Monday a meeting was still possible soon, telling Fox News Channel that Trump wants a deal with China, but it must be "fair to Americans, and American workers and American interests".

Chinese officials also are balking at USA pressure to accept a mechanism to monitor whether Beijing carries out its promises, said Kuijs.

Tensions between US President Donald Trump and China's leader Xi Jinping have escalated in recent months, costing both countries billions of dollars.

Doss said FONOPS "are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements".

"But at some point, I expect to meet with President Xi.and make the parts of the deal that the group is unable to make", he said, in reference to senior US and Chinese officials in charge of trade negotiations.

China says the bases are essential for self-defense and accused the U.S. of ramping up tensions in the region by sending battleships and warplanes close to the disputed islands.

Beijing has tried to deflect pressure by emphasizing China's growth as an export market.

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"At some point, I expect to meet with President Xi, who I have a lot of respect for a like a lot, and make the parts of the deal that the group is unable to make".

The so-called freedom-of-navigation patrols were reported earlier Monday by Reuters, which cited an unidentified USA official.

Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to meet with top USA officials in Beijing this week, a report said today, as the world's two biggest economies rush to patch up their trade differences before a looming deadline.

Trump's comments are at odds with the firm line held by other members of the administration until now.

"Overnight, Trump said he could let the March 1st deadline for a trade agreement with China slide "for a little while" to make a "real deal".

And what if Trump goes ahead with a March 2 tariff hike to step up pressure on Beijing?

"We conduct routine and regular freedom of navigation operations as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future", he said.