Japan, Philippines Urge U.S., North Korea to Avoid Brink of War

  • Trump must be flexible in ‘tit-for-tat’ situation, China says
  • North Korea tested another ballistic missile Saturday

Trump Team Reacts to Latest North Korea Provocations

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte joined China in pleading with the leaders of North Korea and the U.S. to tone down their nuclear brinksmanship, even as he agreed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that negotiations to end the standoff would be useless.

“We have to caution everybody including those who’d give the advice to the two players because you have nuclear warheads to just show restraint,” Duterte said Saturday after wrapping up a meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila.

Duterte at the ASEAN meeting in Manila on April 29.

Photographer: Ted Aljibe/AFP via Getty Images

Abe, in London, said talks with North Korea shouldn’t be tried while the communist nation continues its “provocative acts.” He spoke as China’s official news agency, Xinhua, urged President Donald Trump to “tread cautiously” with the U.S. and North Korea locked in a “tit-for-tat” vicious cycle. Duterte compared the standoff to two countries playing with toys “and those toys are not to entertain.”

North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test early Saturday came hours after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson mounted an effort at the United Nations to rally pressure against Kim Jong Un’s regime. Trump has stepped up pressure to prevent Kim from obtaining the capability to hit North America with a nuclear weapon. He has threatened to act unilaterally if China fails to do more to curb its neighbor’s activities.

How North Korea Defies the World With Nuclear Ambitions

“One miscalculation of a missile, whether or not a nuclear warhead or an ordinary bomb, one explosion there that would hit somebody would cause a catastrophe,” Duterte said, adding he would tell Trump just that in a phone call later Saturday.

Trump, in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” called the latest launch “a small missile” while declining to say whether he’d take military action if Kim conducts a nuclear test.

“If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy,” Trump said, according to an excerpt provided by CBS. “And I can tell you also, I don’t believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either.” Asked if “not happy” meant military action, he said, “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”

China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately reply to phone and email messages Saturday seeking comment on the test-firing, which occurred about 5:30 a.m. local time.

In a commentary distributed by Xinhua, the official China news agency said the U.S. and North Korea “need to tread cautiously not to ignite another war in the region.” The U.S. needs to “terminate the state of war” on the peninsula while North Korea needs to offer a “solid reason” for the U.S. to change its policy, Xinhua said in the commentary.

In a briefing for reporters in London, Abe described the missile as a “grave threat” that “can absolutely not be tolerated.”

China Pressed

China, which accounts for the vast majority of North Korean trade, has an important role to play, Abe added. Tillerson told the UN Security Council Friday that countries that fail to implement economic sanctions on Kim’s regime “fully discredit this body.”

Kim’s regime has test-fired ballistic missiles six times this year, including a failed test earlier this month following a high-profile military parade through Pyongyang. He’s launched dozens of projectiles and conducted three nuclear tests since coming to power after his father’s death in 2011, and claimed in January to be almost ready to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile that would threaten the U.S.

During the Security Council session, Tillerson said that the U.S. goal isn’t to overthrow Kim’s regime but ruled out talks unless the North Korean leader takes “concrete steps to reduce the threat that illegal weapons programs pose to the United States and our allies.”

As the meeting concluded, Tillerson reiterated that the U.S. wouldn’t agree to talks unless North Korea abides by existing Security Council resolutions.

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