Japan seeks US notice on N. Korea

South Korea doesn't support a preemptive strike and is closely coordinating with the Trump administration, according to an Asian government official familiar with North Korean issues who asked not to be identified.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, responded yesterday by urging a "peaceful resolution to tensions" in a telephone conversation with Mr Trump.

"I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the USA will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem", he tweeted.

"I think China can help us", he said.

On Tuesday, North Korea warned of a nuclear attack on the U.S. at any sign of American aggression. The phonecall comes just days before North Korea prepares to celebrate the birth anniversary of late leader Kim Il-sung on April 15, which has in the past included missile tests and as a U.S. carrier battle group heads towards the peninsula. It's widely believed that another launch or even a nuclear test is imminent as North Korea continues to build its nuclear program.

In an apparent attempt to put pressure on Pyongyang, Washington has sent a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, to waters off the Korean Peninsula, further prompting suspicions here over an imminent pre-emptive strike against the North's nuclear capabilities.

At the same time Washington has said all options, including military ones, are on the table and that a U.S. strike last week against Syria should serve as a warning to Pyongyang.

And while the United States defence secretary Jim Mattis won't say what the U.S. aircraft carrier is up to near North Korea, Trump tweeted: "North Korea is looking for trouble".

China's foreign ministry said Wednesday the two leaders had spoken by phone, days after Trump sent the aircraft carrier-led strike group to the region in a show of force ahead of a possible nuclear test.

North Korean state media has warned of a nuclear attack on the United States in retaliation for any signs of aggression, a threat that has been made numerous times before.

The call underscored a sense of urgency given concerns that North Korea could soon conduct a sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of United Nations sanctions, and over Trump's threat of unilateral action to solve the problem.

Russia has said it is anxious about the possibility of a US attack on North Korea and it would raise the issue with visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian media quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that China had ordered its trading companies to return coal shipments, a key North Korea export, to the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang. "She's stationed there in the West Pacific region for a reason, she operates freely up and down the Pacific", he said, "and she's just on her way up there because that's where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time".

China hasn't signaled any clear change in policy toward its neighbor and Xi's language followed China's usual script on North Korea.

The US show of force prompted the North to declare it was "ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US".

"We talked about trade, and I can tell you, China will do much better on trade if they help us with North Korea".

"If that's the only option the Chinese leave us, there's a real possibility that Chinese entities will get hit", the official said.

No one has spoken of shooting down a North Korean missile unless it directly threatens the USA or its allies in East Asia.

  • Leroy Wright