United States carrier group heads for Korean waters, China calls for restraint

Cheryl Sanders
April 24, 2017

BEIJING (AP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping called for restraint in dealing with North Korea during a telephone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese state media reported Monday, amid speculation that the North could soon carry out a sixth nuclear test.

According to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry, Xi told Trump that China opposes any actions that run counter to UN Security Council resolutions.

The Chinese president added that "only if all parties take their responsibilities and work together can the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue be solved".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed to urge North Korea to refrain from what Abe called provocative actions.

Japan said on Sunday it had sent two Japanese destroyers to join the carrier group for drills, and South Korea said it was also in talks about holding joint naval exercises.

Hours later, Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross said the USA would call on North Korea "to refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its worldwide obligations and commitments and return to serious talks".

The Pentagon called on the Pyongyang government to "refrain from provocative, destabilising actions and rhetoric" and return to "serious talks" with the worldwide community about it's nuclear ambitions. South Korea is also considering whether to conduct drills with the USA naval flotilla, which embarked for the Korean Peninsula after initial confusion about an itinerary that first saw it bound for joint exercises with Australia.

"The North Korean nuclear and missile problem is an extremely serious security threat to not only the global community but also our country", the Japanese leader told reporters in Tokyo afterward.

The issue has gained added urgency as North Korea prepares to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday.

There is also a possibility that North Korea, facing potential changes in regional dynamics as Washington presses Beijing to pressure North Korea more aggressively, opts to mark the anniversary with a missile launch of lesser magnitude. But China has been reluctant to take drastic action, preferring to maintain a status quo rather than risk a collapse of Kim's regime, using North Korea as a buffer with US-allied South Korea.

With typical rhetorical flourish, the ministry said North Korea "will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own style and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the USA imperialists".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after the phone call, told reporters he would "continue to maintain close contact with the USA, and maintain an advanced alert monitoring system". "We will maintain close contact with the United States, keep a high level of vigilance and respond firmly". If North Korea conducts a nuclear test, "Beijing will undoubtedly support the United Nations in adopting tougher sanctions against it, including oil embargo", said the newspaper, which is known for its nationalistic views.

Satellite imagery analyzed by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, found some activity under way at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site last week. Analysts said earlier this month that North Korea's only nuclear site is "primed and ready" for another test.

North Korea also detained a USA citizen as he tried to leave the capital Pyongyang.

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