Geopolitics

Trump discusses North Korea tensions with Asian leaders

Reaction from Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow and director of research for the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution

 

President Trump talked to leaders of both China and Japan on Monday as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have boiled over and North Korea appears ready for an ICBM launch.

Trump spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Japan's military claimed it sent destroyers to join the USS Carl Vinson carrier group on its way to North Korea's doorstep -- and South Korea was in talks to take part as well, Reuters reported.

North Korea called the carrier group's approach "an extremely dangerous act by those who plan a nuclear war to invade," according to a commentary in the ruling Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun. "What's only laid for aggressors is dead bodies."

Xi told Trump that China strongly opposed North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and hoped “all parties will exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation,” according to Chinese broadcaster CCTV. Trump hopes China could increase pressure on its isolated ally instead of using military options or trying to overthrow Kim Jong Un’s regime.

Trump and Abe agreed to urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions.

"The North Korean nuclear and missile problem is an extremely serious security threat to not only the international community but also our country," Abe told reporters after the phone call with Trump.

Meanwhile, U.S. commercial satellite images indicated increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, while Kim has said that the country’s preparation for an ICBM launch is in its “final stage.”

South Korea’s Defense Ministry has said the North appears ready to conduct such "strategic provocations" at any time. South Korean Acting Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has instructed his military to strengthen its "immediate response posture" in case North Korea does something significant on the April 25 anniversary of its military. North Korea often marks significant dates by displaying military capability.

North Korea separately fired what U.S. officials said were a Scud-type missile and a midrange missile earlier this month, but the launches were analyzed as failures.

In a statement released late Friday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry accused Trump of driving the region into an "extremely dangerous phase" with his sending of the aircraft carrier and said the North was ready to stand up against any kind of threated posed by the United States.

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 U.S. imperialists."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.