Demola Ojo with agency reports
US President Donald Trump called the French President yesterday amid mounting tensions with North Korea the day after he said he was considering further economic sanctions against the nation. Trump has also contacted the leader of China and the governor of Guam. Japan, meanwhile, deployed the PAC-3 land-based missile interception system to four different locations.
In a call Trump had with President Emmanuel Macron of France, the two discussed the need to confront the increasingly dangerous situation associated with North Korea’s destabilising and escalatory behaviour, according to a White House readout of the call.
During the call, both leaders discussed working with allies to enforce United Nations sanctions and denuclearise the Korean Peninsula, the statement said.
However, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for restraint during a phone call yesterday with Trump over the escalating tensions. Trump has urged the Chinese government to exert more pressure on the North Korean regime, with little success.
During the call, Trump also informed Xi that he plans to direct his administration to investigate Chinese trade practices tomorrow.
Earlier yesterday, Macron had issued a statement voicing his concern at the ballistic and nuclear threat coming from North Korea, adding that the international community should work with Pyongyang to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions.”
Macron said France and other UN Security Council members want North Korea to “proceed with the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear and ballistic programmes.”
In a related development, Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, said he spoke with Trump and chief of staff John Kelly, and he posted the audio of the call on Facebook. Guam is a US territory in an area of the Pacific that North Korea has threatened to strike with missiles.
North Korea’s estimated splashdown of missiles aimed toward Guam would place them just outside Guam’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters. Guam’s Homeland Security adviser, George Charfauros, said on Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.
Meanwhile, Japan’s defense ministry deployed a missile interception system to military bases in four prefectures yesterday, video from the four locations showed.
The prefectures sit in a line between North Korea and Guam. Pyongyang identified three of the prefectures as the regions over which its missiles would fly on the way toward the US territory.
Trump has stood by his bellicose rhetoric on North Korea, saying leader Kim Jong Un “will truly regret it and he will regret it fast” if he issues an overt threat or attacks Guam or a US ally.
“This man will not get away with what he is doing,” Trump told reporters. “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that is an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
Trump also told reporters that the US is considering additional sanctions against North Korea “at a very, very high level.”
“Very strong ones. They are already very strong,” he said. “We are considering additional sanctions at a very, very high level. And probably you could say as strong as they get.”
He continued: “I hope they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said. And what I said is what I mean,” Trump said. He dismissed criticism directed at his rhetoric, saying the only reason is “because it’s me.”
“If somebody else uttered the exact same words that I uttered they would say what a great statement, what a wonderful statement,” Trump said, adding that there are “tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I am saying.”
Neighbouring powers have urged restraint. Russia called on the Trump administration to keep calm on Friday, just as China agreed with the US that the recent adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution on North Korea was an important step toward achieving peace and stability on the peninsula.
“President Trump and President Xi agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behaviour,” the statement said. As China reissues its calls for calm between the US and North Korea and warns Donald Trump not to “play with fire”.
The White House said the “relationship between the two presidents is an extremely close one, and will hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution of the North Korea problem”.