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 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 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 Advisor H R McMaster, he also said further economic sanctions against North Korea were being considered.
China is one of North Korea’s only allies and Trump has repeatedly criticized Beijing for not exercising more pressure on Pyongyang to reign in its nuclear weapons programme, which appears to have accelerated in recent months.
The US also irked Beijing this week by sailing a warship close to an artificial reef constructed by China in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Despite these tensions, the White House statement said, “The relationship between the two presidents is an extremely close one,” adding that Trump was looking forward to seeing Xi in China later this year for a “historic” meeting.
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.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that “the risks are very high” that the US and North Korea could go to war, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said an escalation in language was “the wrong response.”
North Korea carried out its second intercontinental missile test on July 28, later claiming that it now had the capability to reach all of the US mainland.
In response, the UN imposed its harshest sanctions yet on the reclusive nation. They are expected to cut North Korea’s export revenues by one third.