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Lantana, Florida, has suddenly become the world leader in diplomatic protocol.
Chinese president Xi Jinping will travel to Florida in early April to meet his US counterpart, Donald Trump. The announcement of the date of the first summit between the presidents of the world’s two biggest economies came not from the White House or from Beijing but from Sean Scheller, the police chief of Lantana, Florida (population 11,000).
Xi will be in Florida April 6 and April 7, and will meet with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago home, but will stay at the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, the Palm Beach Post reported, citing Scheller—who is evidently going to be responsible for some policing during the visit. He told the Lantana town council to expect 80% of the beach parking spots to be closed off. “Just be prepared it’s going to be a traffic nightmare over there,” he said.
Chinese-US government meetings are historically highly structured affairs that rely heavily on protocol—not least because of the long history of tense relations between the two countries. Normally, Washington and Beijing would announce a meeting between the two top leaders simultaneously, a way for both governments to make a display of mutual respect.
Previous US president Barack Obama and Xi met in shirtsleeves at a California ranch in 2013 in an attempt to create a more informal atmosphere, but the frosty relations continued. The Xi-Trump meeting was first reported by Axios, but that report didn’t name sources. The White House confirmed earlier this month that a meeting was being planned, but not the dates.
When Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Mar-a-Lago in February, he also stayed overnight at the club, with Trump reportedly picking up the tab. Rooms at the beachside resort where Xi will stay, a former Ritz Carlton, start at around $500 a night.
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