Saturday 25 November 2017

North Korea warns US over 'madcap nuclear provocation'

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Neil Connor

Pyongyang has warned the US over what it said were its "madcap nuclear war provocations", aimed at violating "the sovereignty and vital rights of North Korea at any cost".

A statement of the Foreign Ministry said North Korea possessed a "powerful nuclear deterrent" which would enable it to react to a "total war with an all-out war".

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, urged Donald Trump to show restraint over North Korea yesterday, as a US aircraft carrier group heads towards the region amid fears that Kim Jong-un's regime was set to carry out a nuclear test.

Mr Xi made the appeal as Beijing becomes increasingly concerned that strong rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang could escalate into conflict. North Korea prepares to mark the 85th anniversary today of the founding of its Korean People's Army - a possible date for the regime to test military hardware.

Mr Xi told the US president that with a "rapidly changing international situation", it was important for Beijing and Washington to "maintain close contacts and make exchanges on key issues".

Mr Trump is growing increasingly impatient over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and concerns are growing that he could take action against the rogue regime.

In his second phonecall with the US president since the pair met in Florida earlier this month, Mr Xi said he hoped that "all parties would exercise restraint and avoid doing things that would aggravate tensions on the peninsula".

Mr Xi added that "all parties should adopt a responsible attitude" in achieving "the same goal" - halting Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday that a strike group led by the US Carl Vinson aircraft carrier would arrive in the Sea of Japan, which is between Japan and South Korea, in a "matter of days". It was heading north in the western Pacific Ocean conducting joint exercises with Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force, reports said yesterday.

South Korea is also reported to be considering taking part in drills. Satellite imagery analysed by 38 North, a Washington-based monitoring project, found some activity at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site last week.

However, the group said it was unclear whether the site was in a "tactical pause" before another test or was carrying out normal operations.

Tensions escalated further on Sunday when North Korea detained a US citizen as he attempted to leave the country.

Mr Trump has sought China's help to rein in North Korea's military programme, but has also vowed to act unilaterally if it failed to do so. China, the North's only diplomatic ally and trading partner, banned imports of coal from its neighbour in mid-February after tough UN sanctions were imposed on Pyongyang. Chinese media has raised the possibility that Beijing could choke the country of crude oil, a potentially devastating move for Kim's regime. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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