Trump suggests China is making 'unusual' moves regarding North Korea
U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday “some very unusual moves” have been made by China over the past several hours, adding that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would try to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile program.
“I can say that all of the pundits out there are saying they've never seen China work like they're working right now,” Trump said in a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni at the White House.
He added, “Some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours,” without elaborating. “And I really have confidence that the president will try very hard,” in reference to the Chinese leader.
His remarks came after a report was released about China preparing military aircraft and bombers for potential contingencies in North Korea, amid heightened military tension on the Korean Peninsula.
“I actually told him,” said Trump, “You’ll make a much better deal on trade, if you get rid of this menace, or do something about this menace of North Korea."
Trump also said, “As far as North Korea is concerned, we are in very good shape. We’re building our military rapidly.”
Earlier Thursday, CNN reported that the Chinese air force put land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers on "high alert" on Wednesday in preparation for a potential contingency in North Korea, citing a U.S. defense official.
Washington has also seen an extraordinary number of Chinese military aircraft being brought up to full readiness through intensified maintenance, said the official, who added that such recent steps by Beijing are thought to be part of an effort to "reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency.”
A North Korea contingency could include the risk of an armed conflict, and Washington has warned that it is ready for military action should peaceful attempts to resolve the nuclear issue fail.
U.S. officials also told Reuters Friday that the United States is aware of a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers.
This comes amid speculation that North Korea is more likely to conduct its sixth nuclear test, or a missile launch, around its military’s founding anniversary on April 25.
Earlier this week, the Chinese navy tested its new Type 052D-class guided-missile destroyer, the Xining, which is equivalent to U.S. Aegis destroyers, in its first live-fire exercise conducted in the Yellow Sea, near the Korean Peninsula.
The drill appeared to be a show of force both to Pyongyang and Washington, which ordered the U.S. Navy’s Carl Vinson Strike Group to head toward the Korean Peninsula earlier this month.
After it was revealed that the strike group had actually been heading in the opposite direction, it is now said to be en route to arrive in the region early next week.
As the strike group approached waters near the Korean Peninsula, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers Ashigara and Samidare were dispatched from the naval base in Sasebo, Nagasaki, at around 8 a.m., reported NHK on Friday.
The Japanese government has begun to review a plan for evacuation of its nationals in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, reported Mainichi Shimbun on Friday, citing a source close to the government.
Should the United States decide to launch an attack on North Korea, its government is studying a plan to evacuate Japanese nationals in South Korea to designated shelters. Tokyo will take into account Washington's assumption that an attack on the North would be settled after 72 hours, according to Japanese government sources.
There are estimated to be around 38,000 Japanese in Korea staying longer than three months, as well as 19,000 travelers.
It further reported that Tokyo will work out a plan to evacuate Japanese nationals in conjunction with U.S. evacuations, as it assumed Washington would begin operations to evacuate Americans in South Korea in advance, should the Pentagon launch a pre-emptive attack on the North.
If Japan gains consent from Seoul, it is considering sending its Self-Defense Force’s planes to aid such an evacuation operation, in addition to scheduled flights or chartering commercial aircraft, the report said.
North Korea marks the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday, which is a possible date for the regime’s next provocation.
South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng described the April 25 anniversary as an important event that comes at the end of North Korea’s major winter military drills.
"Objectively speaking, it is a situation where a lot of equipment from the military drills are amassed in North Korea and many strategic assets are situated on the Korean Peninsula because of the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills," said Lee. “So, based on North Korea’s recent provocative rhetoric, there is a possibility of North Korea’s action at any time, including on North Korea’s military foundation day on April 25, and our government is observing the situation closely.”
The U.S. and South Korean militaries have been holding their large-scale annual Max Thunder exercises over the past two weeks, involving some 100 fighters and reconnaissance planes, including South Korea’s F-15K and KF-16 jets and U.S. F-16s and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.
The biannual aerial exercise from an air base in Gunsan, North Jeolla, involved a simulation-based precision strike drill, honing in readiness against enemies and coordination in case of emergency.
A South Korean intelligence source said Friday that there has not been any unusual movement by North Korea overnight.
The six-party negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan are scheduled to meet on Tuesday in Tokyo, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday, “to discuss plans to rein in Pyongyang’s further high-strength strategic provocations, maximize pressure on the North, and to ensure China's constructive role in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue.”
The U.S. Air Force dispatched its nuclear sniffer plane WC-135 Constant Phoenix to fly over the East Sea Thursday, which was speculated as a move to be checking whether North Korea has detonated a nuclear bomb.
If North Korea were to detonate a nuclear bomb at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, the radioactive material is expected to spread to its eastern coast because of westerly winds.
The Boeing aircraft arrived at Japan’s Kadena Air Base in Okinawa on April 7 to patrol the area around the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean military sources said Friday that the WC-135 flight the previous day was a drill to check equipment.
However, the military here maintains that North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any moment upon the order of the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
The U.S. Air Force dispatched its sniffer planes to Japan to collect air samples after past underground nuclear tests conducted by the North in 2006, 2009, 2013 and two last year, including the fifth detonation last September. WC-135 discovered radiative material in the air samples collected over the East Sea after Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in October 2006.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]