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China urges peace as North Korea tensions boil


Chinese President Xi Jinping has spoken to US President Donald Trump on the telephone and has urged for a peaceful resolution to the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula as a US aircraft carrier strike group continues to steam towards the region.

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Trump said on Twitter that Wednesday’s call with Xi, just days after they met in the United States for the first time, was a “very good” discussion of the “menace of North Korea”.

He later praised China in a news conference for sending coal ships back to North Korea under UN sanctions and said he thought Xi wanted to help.

“We’ll see whether or not he does,” Trump said. “Otherwise we’re just going to go it alone; that’ll be all right too, but going it alone means going with lots of other nations.”

The Trump-Xi call came as an influential state-run Chinese newspaper warned that the Korean peninsula was the closest it has been to a “military clash” since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006.

The call underscored a sense of urgency given concerns that North Korea could soon conduct a sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of UN sanctions, and over Trump’s threat of unilateral action to solve the problem.

At the weekend, Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to head to the Korean peninsula in a show of force aimed at deterring North Korea.

Pyongyang warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the US at any sign of American aggression. It remains technically at war with the US and South Korea after the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and regularly threatens to destroy both countries.

Trump pressed Xi to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear programme when the two leaders met in Florida last week. He said on Tuesday that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and Washington would “solve the problem” with or without China’s help.

In spite of the rhetoric, US officials have stressed that stronger sanctions are the most likely US course to press North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme.

At the same time Washington has said all options, including military ones, are on the table and that a US strike last week against Syria should serve as a warning to Pyongyang.

Xi stressed in the call with Trump that China was “committed to the target of denuclearisation on the peninsula, safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula, and advocates resolving problems through peaceful means”, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.

North Korea is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the US and officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, have indicated an intercontinental ballistic missile test or something similar could be coming.

Saturday marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding president Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current leader. North Korea launched a long-range rocket carrying a satellite on April 13, 2012, to mark the centenary of his birth.

– Reuters

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