North Korea

Trump abruptly schedules talks with Xi and Abe, as tensions mount over North Korea

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 6:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 6:33am

US President Donald Trump has scheduled telephone conversations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a White House official said, amid heightened tensions surrounding North Korea.

The topics of the Sunday-night (Monday morning, Hong Kong time) conversations, which were abruptly added to Trump’s agenda, were not announced. But they come as Pyongyang is thought to be preparing to conduct further test-firings of missiles or a sixth nuclear test, possibly on the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army on Tuesday.

Trump and his senior officials have said that all options, including military action, are “on the table” in dealing with North Korea’s pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, which violates UN Security Council resolutions.

Japanese warships in joint exercises with US carrier strike group

The White House will also hold a briefing for senators with its “four principals” on North Korea as the administration considers its options for dealing with Pyongyang.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will attend the meeting planned for April 26, the White House said in an advance schedule.

Over the weekend, North Korea detained a US citizen who’d been teaching at a university there as he was leaving the country, according to media reports that cited officials with the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang. Three Americans are now being held in the isolated nation.

North Korea detains third US citizen, South claims

“We are aware of reports that a US citizen was detained in North Korea,” a State Department official said in a brief statement. “In cases where US citizens are reported to be detained in North Korea, we work with the Swedish Embassy, which serves as the United States’ Protecting Power in North Korea. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”

Trump said on April 20 he was confident China is working “very hard” to defuse tensions with North Korea.

North Korea on Sunday said it was ready to sink a US aircraft carrier to show its military strength, Reuters reported, citing North Korea’s state-run Rodung Sinmun. The USS Carl Vinson is heading to the Western Pacific to conduct drills with two Japanese destroyers amid heightened tensions over the North’s missile tests.

Vice-President Mike Pence said during a visit to Sydney this weekend that all options are “on the table” for the US. Pence is winding up a 10-day trip to Asia and the Pacific in which he has regularly criticised North Korea.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday’s Face the Nation on CBS that while North Korea poses mostly a cyber threat to the U.S. today, that could change.

“The instant they get a missile that can reach the United States, and they have a weaponised atomic device, nuclear device on it, we’re at grave risk as a nation,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kyodo