China’s president urges Trump to use restraint over North Korea

Xi Jinping says peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue is essential

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping: The ‘relationship between the two presidents is an extremely close one’. File photograph: Saul Loeb/Pool/File Photo

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping: The ‘relationship between the two presidents is an extremely close one’. File photograph: Saul Loeb/Pool/File Photo

 

Chinese president Xi Jinping said there needs to be a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue. In a telephone call with US president Donald Trump he urged all sides to avoid words or action that raise tensions.

Mr Xi’s comments came hours after Mr Trump warned North Korea that the US military was “locked and loaded” as Pyongyang accused the US leader of driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.

The Pentagon said the United States and South Korea would proceed as planned with a joint military exercise in 10 days, an action sure to further antagonise North Korea.

In a statement, China’s foreign ministry said Mr Xi told Mr Trump that a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue was essential, and urged calm. “Concerned parties must exercise restraint and avoid remarks and actions that escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula,” it cited Mr Xi as saying.

In their phone call, Mr Trump and Mr Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behaviour,” the White House said in a statement, adding the relationship between the two presidents was “an extremely close one, and will hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution of the North Korea problem.”

It added the relationship between Mr Trump and Mr Xi was “extremely close” and “will hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution of the North Korea problem.

China, Russia and Germany voiced dismay at the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

Mr Trump, vacationing at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, again referred to North Korea’s leader in his latest bellicose remarks. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

The term “locked and loaded,” popularised in the 1949 war film Sands of Iwo Jima starring American actor John Wayne, refers to preparations for shooting a gun.

Asked later by reporters to explain the remark, Mr Trump said: “Those words are very, very easy to understand.”

‘He will truly regret it’

Again referring to Mr Kim, Mr Trump added, “If he utters one threat ... or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”

In remarks to reporters after a meeting with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Mr Trump said the situation with North Korea was “very dangerous and it will not continue.”

“We will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen, and we could also have a bad solution,” he said.

Despite the tough rhetoric, Mr Trump insisted that “nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”

Mr Trump said he thought US allies South Korea and Japan were “very happy” with how he was handling the confrontation.

The president, a wealthy businessman and former reality television personality, sent his tweet after North Korean state news agency, KCNA said in a statement that “Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.”

South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a statement on Saturday the United States and China were working to resolve the North Korea crisis, and it hoped the two leaders’ phone call “will be able to resolve the peak of tension and act as a catalyst for the situation to move on to a new dimension.”

Guam

Guam, the Pacific island that is a US territory, posted emergency guidelines on Friday to help residents prepare for any potential nuclear attack after a threat from North Korea to fire missiles in its vicinity.

Guam is home to a US air base, a Navy installation, a Coast Guard group and roughly 6,000 US military personnel. KCNA said on Thursday the North Korean army would complete plans in mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land in the sea 30-40 km (18-25 miles) from Guam.

Mr Trump called the governor of Guam, Eddie Baza Calvo. “We are with you a thousand per cent. You are safe,” Mr Trump told Mr Calvo, who posted a video of himself speaking with the president on Facebook.

Washington wants to stop Pyongyang from developing nuclear missiles that could hit the United States. North Korea sees its nuclear arsenal as protection against the United States and its partners in Asia.

Mr Trump said he was considering additional sanctions on North Korea, adding these would be “very strong.” He gave no details and did not make clear whether he meant unilateral or multilateral sanctions.

US officials have said new US steps that would target Chinese banks and firms doing business with Pyongyang are in the works, but these have appeared to be put on hold to give Beijing time to show it is serious about enforcing new UN sanctions.

Peace talks

Mr Trump said he did not want to talk about diplomatic “back channels” with North Korea after US media reports that Joseph Yun, the US envoy for North Korea policy, had engaged in diplomacy for several months with Pak Song Il, a senior diplomat at Pyongyang’s UN mission, on the deteriorating ties and the issue of Americans imprisoned in North Korea.

But Daniel Russel, until April the top US diplomat for East Asia, said this so-called New York channel had been a relatively commonplace means of communication with North Korea over the years, and was not a forum for negotiation. It’s never been a vehicle for negotiations and this doesn?t constitute substantive US-DPRK dialogue,” he said, using the acronym for North Korea’s formal name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Moscow

In Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov urged Pyongyang and Washington to sign up to a previously unveiled joint Russian-Chinese plan by which North Korea would freeze missile tests and the United States and South Korea would impose a moratorium on large-scale military exercises. Neither the United States nor North Korea has embraced the plan.

Mr Lavrov said the risks of a military conflict over North Korea’s nuclear programme are very high and Moscow is deeply worried by the threats from both sides.

“Unfortunately, the rhetoric in Washington and Pyongyang is now starting to go over the top,” Mr Lavrov said on live state television at a forum for Russian students. “We still hope and believe that common sense will prevail.”

Amid the heated words, South Koreans are buying more ready-to-eat meals for emergency use, and the government aims to expand nationwide civil defense drills planned for 23rd August. Hundreds of thousands of troops and huge arsenals are arrayed on both sides of the tense demilitarised zone between the two Koreas.

European leaders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there is no military solution, adding that “an escalation of the rhetoric is the wrong answer.”

“I see the need for enduring work at the UN Security Council ... as well as tight cooperation between the countries involved, especially the US and China,” she told reporters in Berlin.

Mr Trump said hours later, “Let her speak for Germany.”

The French presidency said North Korea was engaged in a “dangerous escalation” of tensions. President Emmanuel Macron “calls for all parties to act responsibly and prevent any further escalation in tensions,” the Elysee palace said in a statement.

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said blame for problems lay with North Korea, and that the international community was “shoulder to shoulder” in efforts to stop North Korean aggression. “We are working with the US and our partners in the region to bring this crisis to a diplomatic end,” he tweeted.

Japanese media reported the government decided to deploy its Patriot missile defence system to four locations in the west of the country.

Reuters