(RFE/RL) — Chinese President Xi Jinping urged U.S. President Donald Trump during a phone call to avoid “words and deeds” that would “exacerbate” the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula, state television reported on August 12.
The White House also issued a statement on August 12 saying North Korea “must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior” and that new UN sanctions on Pyongyang were “an important and necessary step” toward peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The White House said Trump and Xi also reiterated their commitment to denuclearize the peninsula.
Trump has pushed China to do more to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program.
China is North Korea’s biggest economic partner and source of aid, but insists it can’t make Pyongyang end its nuclear and missile programs.
The phone call came after a week of inflammatory rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, with North Korea saying it was finalising a plan to fire medium-to-long-range rockets toward Guam, where U.S strategic bombers are based.
It said it will complete plans by mid-month to strike near Guam with intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
‘Locked And Loaded’
Earlier on August 11, Trump said a military option against North Korea was “locked and loaded,” in the latest escalation of rhetorical brinkmanship between the two nations.
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un will find another path!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The term “locked and loaded” refers to a gun loaded with ammunition that is ready to be fired at any time by pulling the trigger.
Asked about his tweet, Trump later issued further threats to Pyongyang, saying, “I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean.”
“If [Kim] does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast,” Trump told reporters at his golf resort in New Jersey, where he is on vacation.
‘Fire And Fury’
Earlier this week Trump told reporters that his previous warning that any further threats from North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” may have been too soft.
“It’s about time somebody stuck up for the people of this country and the people of other countries, so if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough,” Trump said.
After meeting with his foreign policy team on August 11, Trump said South Korea and Japan, the two U.S. allies most directly threatened by North Korea, are “happy” with the way he is confronting North Korea.
He said the situation in North Korea was “very dangerous” but he has not given up hope for a peaceful solution.
“Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump,” he said. “We will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen, and we could also have a bad solution.”
Moscow ‘Very Worried’
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the United States is “ready” to take on North Korea, but warned that a war would be “catastrophic,” and that a “diplomatically led effort to get this under control” was “gaining traction.”
Trump declined to say whether Washington might consider a preemptive strike against North Korea, but said he was still open to negotiation.
International concern over North Korea’s actions has grown after Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, later claiming that it now had the capability to reach all of the U.S. mainland.
Last week, the United Nations imposed its harshest sanctions yet on the North as a result of its nuclear weapons program. They are expected to cut North Korea’s export revenues by one-third.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on August 11 that risks of a military conflict over North Korea’s nuclear program are “very high,” and Moscow is “very worried”by the mutual threats of attack traded by Washington and Pyongyang.
“The side that is stronger and cleverer” should take the first step to defuse the crisis, Lavrov said at a youth forum in the Vladimir region, east of Moscow.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also called for restraint, saying that “escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer.”
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