Chinese President Xi Jinping moved Monday to play peacemaker on the Korean Peninsula, asking U.S. President Donald Trump to “avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation” after North Korea took a third U.S. citizen into custody and threatened to sink an American ship.
In a phone call to his U.S. counterpart, Xi urged restraint in the face of increasing provocation from Pyongyang in recent weeks, which has included threats of nuclear attack and ongoing missile tests that flout international sanctions.
Since the pair met at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, Trump has been urging Xi — via a follow-up phone call, Twitter messages and comments to the media — to do more to curb the threat from North Korea, given its position as the country’s closest economic and political ally.
Chinese state television reported that Xi reiterated to the U.S. president that “China adamantly opposes any actions in contravention of the United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
The Chinese premier also added: “Only if all sides live up to their responsibilities and come together from different directions can the nuclear issue on the peninsula be resolved as quickly as possible.”
In an editorial in the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday, North Korea called the decision to send in the USS Carl Vinson carrier group “an extremely dangerous act by those who plan a nuclear war to invade.”
“The United States should not run amok and should consider carefully any catastrophic consequence from its foolish military provocative act,” the paper said. “What’s only laid for aggressors is dead bodies.”
Here’s what you need to know:
- On Sunday, the newspaper, which is the official publication of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, published commentary that referred to the American ship as a “gross animal,” according to Reuters. “Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” it continued. The story was published on page 3 of the newspaper and followed a two-page feature about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a pig farm.
- The USS Carl Vinson strike group, which was reported heading for the waters around the Korean Peninsula last week but was actually headed in the opposite direction, has now joined two Japanese ships for naval exercises in the Western Pacific.
- News broke Sunday that North Korea has detained another U.S. citizen, which brings the number of Americans held in the country to three. Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, had been teaching accounting at the Pyongyang university of science and technology for the past month, the university’s chancellor Chan-Mo Park told Reuters. It’s unclear why he was arrested, but he was detained just as he was preparing to leave the country.
- Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have ratcheted up in recent weeks. Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea last week, which he called “the frontier of freedom.” He wasn’t supposed to go outside while in the DMZ, but did so anyway. “I thought it was important that people on the other side of the demilitarized zone to see our resolve in my face,” he told the Washington Post.
As well as speaking to Xi, Trump spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday, with the pair agreeing that China should play “a bigger role” in defusing the rising tensions, according to a Japanese official who briefed reporters. Hinting at Trump’s threat of a military intervention against Pyongyang, Abe said he appreciated the U.S. president’s “words and actions that show all options are on the table.”