The United States and China are heading back to the negotiating table to try and iron out their differences on trade.
USA tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from China are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if the two sides can not reach a deal by the deadline, increasing pain and costs in sectors from consumer electronics to agriculture.
Those tariffs now stand at 10 percent, but an additional $50 billion worth of imports has already been hit by a 25 percent tariff.
Trump said talks in Beijing are "going well", but acknowledged bilateral talks between him and Xi are unlikely to come to pass before the current March 2 deadline. She also hinted at a location for the meeting, saying its very possible the two leaders will hold a summit at the president's Mar-a-Lago resort.
"I think they're making progress and my hope is that by March 1 there will be enough progress to be made that at a minimum, there could be a delay in the imposition of additional tariffs", Portman told reporters.
Negotiations in Washington last month ended without a deal and with the top USA negotiator declaring work was needed. "Concerning the specific meeting, I have no information on the issue", Hua said.
"He has forged a mutually respectful relationship with President Xi", Conway said.
A growing number of US businesses and lawmakers have expressed hopes for a delay in the tariff increase while the two sides tackle the hard USA demands for major structural policy changes by China aimed at ending the forced transfer of American trade secrets, curbing Beijing's industrial subsidies and enforcing intellectual property rights.
The last round of talks in Washington late last month resulted in China importing American soybeans as it implemented promises to buy more USA goods.
During that operation, a Chinese destroyer came within 41kms of the USA warship, forcing it to manoeuvre to avoid a collision. "And, absolutely, you know, we've put everything on the table, including IP theft and forced technology transfer and so on".
China claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea, despite claims from Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines.
And with March 1 approaching, speculation is growing that it will be hard for negotiators to agree to the complete deal Trump demands. While the American side has expressed optimism, officials caution that there are still many large issues between the USA and China.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet confirmed the FONOP Monday afternoon with global media, stating that the operation was conducted "to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law".
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