China's Xi calls Trump, urges peaceful approach to North Korea – Washington Post
By Simon Denyer,
BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping urged President Trump to find a peaceful solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula during a telephone call between the two leaders early Wednesday, state media reported.
The phone call comes just four days after the pair held face-to-face talks in Florida and hours after Trump tweeted that North Korea was “looking for trouble,” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without China’s help.
The People’s Daily, the official Communist Party mouthpiece, said Xi had thanked Trump for his “warm hospitality and thoughtful arrangements” in Florida, but also took the chance to discuss their “common concerns” about the Korean Peninsula and urge against any military escalation of the situation.
“Xi Jinping stressed that China insists on realizing the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, insists on maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula, advocates resolving the problem through peaceful means and is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the U.S. side on the issue of the peninsula,” the paper wrote.
In a sign of its own growing discomfort at being caught in the middle, China’s Foreign Ministry also weighed in soon after.
“It is irresponsible and even dangerous to take any actions that may escalate the tension,” spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference. “All relevant parties should exercise restraint and keep calm, ease the tension instead of provoking each other and adding fuel to the fire.”
Lu said Xi had placed the telephone call, at Trump’s request.
On Wednesday, Trump described the call in positive terms. “Had a very good call last night with the President of China concerning the menace of North Korea,” Trump tweeted.
The Pentagon sent a Navy strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier toward the Korean Peninsula over the weekend to “maintain readiness” amid concerns the regime in Pyongyang could be preparing for more missile launches and a possible sixth nuclear test.
The Carl Vinson is accompanied by a carrier air wing, a guided-missile cruiser and two destroyers, which Trump described as “an armada, very powerful,” to Fox Business Network. “We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you,” Trump said.
According to Chinese state media, Xi said he and Trump had “enhanced mutual understanding,” and established a good working relationship. On Syria, Xi said “any uses of chemical weapons are unacceptable,” and also urged for a political settlement, as well as “solidarity” and unanimity at the United Nations Security Council.
But Lv Chao, a North Korean studies expert at Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said the situation on the Korean Peninsula appeared to top the agenda, warning that it had become a “very serious standoff” after the U.S. carrier had entered nearby waters.
“The concerned parties should really signal red lights and hit the brake to defuse the situation,” Lv said. “Otherwise, it would be very easy for this to accidentally turn into a conflict. Though it’s very unlikely to have a full-scale war on the peninsula, it’s still very dangerous.”
With typical bravado, Pyongyang has also raised the stakes by warning that it could “hit the U.S. first” with nuclear weapons.
“Our military is keeping an eye on the movement of enemy forces while putting them in our nuclear sights,” declared Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party, adding North Korea will use its “mighty nuclear weapons” to “obliterate” the United States.
While China continues to call for dialogue and a peaceful settlement to the crisis, there is no doubt it has become steadily more impatient with North Korea.
On Monday, a senior South Korean official said China had agreed to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea, through a stronger United Nations resolution, if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests.
However, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Kim Hong-kyun, said there was no mention of military option in his talks with China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, Wu Dawei, nor had the pair discussed the possibility of strike by the Trump administration.
U.S. officials have stressed that stronger sanctions are likely to come first, but that military options are not off the table.
But experts say a military strike by the United States remains unlikely, partly because it is not clear where to strike, and partly because North Korea would probably respond with a devastating attack on the South Korean capital Seoul.
That won’t stop both sides from sabre-rattling, though. In another show of force, Japan’s navy plans to dispatch several destroyers to conduct joint military drills with the USS Carl Vinson as it enters the East China Sea, Reuters reported, citing two sources.
China says it has suspended coal imports from North Korea to comply with U.N. resolutions, but also urges a resumption of talks to find a peaceful settlement. It will not support any action that undermines or could topple the regime in Pyongyang.
Nevertheless, its frustration with North Korea is increasingly evident.
On Tuesday, the state-run Global Times newspaper urged Pyongyang to stop its nuclear and missile program for its own security, arguing that a sixth nuclear test or inter-continental ballistic missile test would be seen as a “slap in the face” of the U.S. government and increase the chances of U.S. military action.
“Not only is Washington brimming with confidence and arrogance following the missile attacks on Syria, but Trump is also willing to be regarded as a man who honors his promises,” the paper wrote.
“The U.S. is making up its mind to stop the North from conducting further nuclear tests. It doesn’t plan to co-exist with a nuclear-armed Pyongyang,” it said. “Pyongyang should avoid making mistakes at this time.”
Global Times editorials do not represent official government policy, but they do often reflect a strain of thinking within the Communist Party.
The paper also said China would seek stronger action by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) if North Korea continued to conduct tests.
“If the North makes another provocative move this month, Chinese society will be willing to see the UNSC adopt severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before, such as restricting oil imports to the North,” the paper said, warning that the regime’s “gamble” could backfire.
“Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program is intended for securing the regime, however, it is reaching a tipping point.”
North Korea is expected to hold a huge military parade Saturday to celebrate the 105th birthday of its founding president, Kim Il Sung, and to mark with similar fanfare the 85th anniversary of the creation of the Korean People’s Army on April 25.
Luna Lin and Jin Xin contributed to this report.
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