China urges peace as Japan's fleet supports Trump's 'armada'
Japanese warships will join an American navy strike group heading towards North Korean waters as China attempts to ease mounting tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
Japan's act of solidarity with Donald Trump's "armada" follows the US president's warning that Washington would act alone against North Korea if Beijing failed to rein in its wayward ally.
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, responded yesterday by urging a "peaceful resolution to tensions" in a telephone conversation with Mr Trump.
The call came as an influential state-run Chinese newspaper warned that the Korean peninsula was the closest it had been to a "military clash" since North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006.
Tensions are escalating sharply over fears that North Korea may carry out another nuclear test on Saturday. The date marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the nation. The North has carried out five nuclear tests since 2006, two of them last year.
Washington has sent a navy strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the region, a force described by Mr Trump as an "armada".
The president also told Fox Business Network that submarines were being sent which were "far more powerful than the aircraft carrier".
Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday that the US would "solve the problem" unilaterally if China was not willing to help.
Chinese media said Mr Xi told Mr Trump in yesterday's telephone call that China would maintain "communication and co-ordination" with Washington over the North Korean issue.
"President Xi made it clear that China wants a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, as well as a peaceful resolution to tensions," the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.
North Korean media responded to Mr Trump's threat by warning of a nuclear strike. The official 'Rodong Sinmun' newspaper said: "Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the US invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theatre but also in the US mainland."
Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said that Pyongyang had been put "clearly on notice" by Mr Trump but he dismissed the North's nuclear threat. "I think there is no evidence that North Korea has that capability at this time," he said.
However, Japan, alarmed at Pyongyang's military build-up, is planning to conduct exercises with the Vinson strike carrier group in waters close to its territory, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, China's 'Global Times' newspaper said that Mr Trump's threat to act had become more credible following Washington's cruise missile strikes against a Syrian air base.