President Donald Trump has revealed how he cemented his newfound friendship with China’s President Xi Jinping over the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen.”
It was over dessert at Mar-a-Lago that Trump told Xi that he had just launched a missile strike on Syria.
The Commander-in-Chief recounted last week's episode to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo Wednesday in an interview in which also he described the “great chemistry” between the pair.
“We had finished dinner. We're now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it,” Trump told Bartiromo.
He was given the message from the generals that the ships were “locked and loaded” and decided he should tell Xi the news.
“I said 'Mr. President, let me explain something to you' ... this was during dessert ... we've just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing,” Trump said.
He also praised the accuracy of the missiles, calling the military technology “so incredible. It's brilliant. It's genius.”
Trump mistakenly said he told Xi that the missiles were headed to Iraq, but quickly corrected himself when prompted by Bartiromo.
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“So what happens is I said we've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent,” said Trump.
Bartiromo piped in, “to Syria?”
"Yes. Heading toward Syria," Trump continued. "In other words, we've just launched 59 missiles heading toward Syria."
Trump said Xi paused and then he asked his interpreter to repeat the information.
"I didn't think that was a good sign," Trump said, but "he said to me, anybody that uses gases — you could almost say or anything else — but anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that young children and babies, it's OK. He was OK.”
The dessert diplomacy seems to have sweetened Trump’s relationship with Xi.
Earlier in the interview, Trump told Bartiromo: "We had great chemistry.”
He said their meetings were supposed to last for just 10 to 15 minutes, but eventually went on for two and three hours. “I mean, we understand each other," Trump said.
Trump said the first topic the two leaders discussed was North Korea, and that he appreciated Xi’s deep knowledge.
“The first thing I brought up was North Korea. I said you've got to help us with North Korea, because we can't allow it. And it's not good for you. And you have a tremendous power because of trade,” Trump said. “Now, he then explains thousands of years of history with Korea. Not that easy. In other words, not as simple as people would think. They've had tremendous conflict with Korea over the years.”
Trump’s warmth toward the leader of world’s second largest economy is a sea change from his rhetoric during the election campaign when he frequently accused of China of devaluing its currency and dumping cheap products on the U.S. market.
Chinese observers said the change of tone was interesting, but one to watch.
"Chemistry is important, but it is not the only thing that matters," Victor Gao, a Chinese international affairs expert who worked as a translator for the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, told NBC News in Beijing. "What truly matters is how the two leaders position themselves in terms of their national interests and how they bring their own views and strategic visions about peace and war and economic developments.”
However, Professor Jin Canrong, an expert on China-U.S. relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said chemistry was "very important because it can help the two leaders reduce miscalculation.”
That could prove useful in dealing with the nuclear-capable North Korea.
Petra Cahill is a senior editor and writer for NBC News Digital. She writes NBC News' Morning Rundown newsletter.
Eric Baculinao is a producer based in Beijing. A long-term resident of Beijing and fluent in Chinese, Baculiano scans Chinese news daily for hints of major new policy trends and insights into the workings of China's secretive Communist party and government leadership.