As the US navy deployed a strike group towards the western Pacific Ocean, to provide a presence near the Korean peninsula, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China agrees with the Trump administration that “action has to be taken” regarding North Korea.
Tillerson told CBS’s Face the Nation, in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, that when Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at Mar-a-Lago this week, they “had extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea”.
“President Xi clearly understands, and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson described a “shared view and no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become”.
In view of the regional threat now posed by North Korean missile tests and nuclear ambitions, he said, the Chinese “do not believe the conditions are right today to engage in discussions with the government in Pyongyang”.
“We’re hopeful,” he added, “that we can work together with the Chinese to change the conditions in the minds of the DPRK leadership. And then, at that point, perhaps discussions may be useful.
“But I think there’s a shared view and no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become. And I think even China is beginning to recognize that this presents a threat to even to China’s interests as well.”
The Carl Vinson strike group, which includes an aircraft carrier, was first scheduled to make port calls in Australia but is now on its way from Singapore to the western Pacific ocean.
“US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson strike group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the western Pacific,” said Commander Dave Benham, spokesman at US Pacific Command.
“The No1 threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilising program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” he said, in an unusually forceful statement.
The news followed a Friday report by NBC that the National Security Council had included the return of nuclear weapons to South Korea in options presented to President Trump for dealing with the threat posed by North Korea. Killing North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was also presented as an option, NBC reported.
On Saturday the White House said the US president had spoken to the acting president of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-Ahn. North Korea, meanwhile, called the US missile strike on Syria on Thursday night “an intolerable act of aggression”.
The White House said on Saturday Trump spoke with Hwang about the strike in Syria, launched in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack on civilians by Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The two leaders agreed to stay in close contact, the White House said, regarding North Korea and other issues of mutual concern.
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