Avoid aggravating tensions, Xi tells Trump

WASHINGTON: China’s President Xi Jinping has called on US President Donald Trump to exercise restraint in his war of words with North Korea, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday.
During a telephone conversation with Trump, Xi said concerned parties should “avoid remarks and actions that could escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula,” according to Xinhua.
The White House said the two leaders had agreed that “North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behaviour” and that new UN sanctions on Pyongyang were “an important and necessary step” towards peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The conversation came after a week of increasingly inflammatory rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, with North Korea announcing plans to fire rockets near the US territory of Guam.
On Friday, Trump warned that if North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attacked the western Pacific island, home to a US military base and around 160,000 people, “he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
Speaking at an informal news conference at his golf resort in New Jersey, alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and US National Security Adviser H R McMaster, he also said further economic sanctions against North Korea were being considered.
The White House also said Trump had telephoned Guam Governor Eddie Calvo to reassure him that “United States forces stand ready to ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam.”
Trump has doubled down on his threats against North Korea since vowing “fire and fury” against the reclusive regime on Tuesday, sparking concern among foreign leaders.
However, the Japanese military deployed four surface-to-air missile interceptors in western Japan on Saturday. The PAC (Patriot Advanced Capability)-3 missile interceptors were installed in four western prefectures.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited his father’s tomb in Yamaguchi prefecture, told reporters, the government “will do its utmost to protect the lives and property of the Japanese people.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was “very alarmed” at Trump’s tough talk, and said Washington should take the first step toward cooling tensions.
“When a fight has nearly broken out, the first step away from the dangerous threshold should be taken by the side that is stronger and smarter,” Lavrov said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said diplomacy was the answer.
“Germany will very intensively take part in the options for resolution that are not military but I consider a verbal escalation to be the wrong response,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron echoed her call for talks, saying the international community needed to work to get Pyongyang to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions”.
Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson blamed Pyongyang for the stand-off, saying on Twitter that the “North Korean regime is the cause of this problem and they must fix it”.
Nearly a week ago, the UN Security Council unanimously passed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang over its weapons programme, including export bans, a new punishment that could cost North Korea $1 billion a year. “This is clearly a time for all the parties to focus on how to de-escalate and lower the tensions,” said the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. — Agencies

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