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Trump ignores pleas to calm North Korea tensions
By Andrew BEATTY, with Thomas Watkins in New Delhi and Kelly MacNamara in Seoul
Washington (AFP) Sept 26, 2017

China sees 'no winner' in a war on Korean peninsula
China warned Tuesday that any conflict on the Korean peninsula would have "no winners", after North Korea accused US President Donald Trump of declaring war on it.

Beijing reiterated its plea for peace talks after the bellicose rhetoric between the United States and North Korea reached new heights in recent days, following Pyongyang's sixth nuclear test early this month.

China hopes Washington and Pyongyang realise that "blindly flaunting one's superiority with words to show off and mutual provocation will only increase the risk of confrontation and reduce the room for policy manoeuvres", said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

"A war on the Korean peninsula will have no winners and would be even worse for the region and regional countries," Lu told a regular news briefing.

Trump tweeted at the weekend that North Korea's leadership "won't be around much longer" if it keeps up its threats.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho accused Trump of declaring war, and warned that his country would be ready to shoot down US bombers.

Tillerson heads to China as North Korea tension rises
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to China this week for talks on how to defuse the perilous nuclear stand-off with North Korea.

The top US diplomat's spokeswoman Heather Nauert said he would be set off for China on Thursday for talks this weekend with senior Chinese leaders.

"Secretary Tillerson will discuss a range of issues, including the president's planned travel to the region, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and trade and investment," she said.

President Donald Trump is due to make his first official visit to China in November, as part of a tour that will also take in regional allies Japan and South Korea.

Washington has alternated between criticizing and praising Beijing's role in the North Korea crisis, on the one hand welcoming its support for new sanctions but also insisting it must do more to rein in its unruly neighbor.

As Tillerson prepared to for his trip, Nauert said "progress" had been made and declare that "China has taken tremendous steps in the right direction."

Tension with North Korea more political than military, US chief of staff says
US relations with North Korea may be "charged" but tensions in the standoff remain political rather than military, the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said Tuesday.

"While the political space is clearly very charged right now, we haven't seen a change in the posture of North Korean forces," General Joe Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"We watch that very carefully," Dunford said, in response to questions from Republican Senator John McCain about rising tensions with Pyongyang after US President Donald Trump mockingly labelled North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un "Little Rocket Man" and said his regime "won't be around much longer."

North Korea responded to the comments by accusing Washington of having declared war, a remark brushed aside by the US administration as "absurd."

Kim also lashed out personally at Trump, saying his regime would "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire."

"We clearly have postured our forces to respond in an event of a provocation or a conflict. We also have taken all the proper measures to protect our allies -- the South Koreans, the Japanese -- the force, as well as the Americans in the area," Dunford said during the hearing.

"But what we haven't see is a military activity that would be reflective of the charged political environment that you are describing," he said.

Donald Trump on Tuesday accused North Korea of torturing a captive US student "beyond belief," spurning pleas from allies and foes in east Asia to tone down his warlike rhetoric.

Trump urged nations to "isolate the North Korean menace" as his administration introduced new sanctions and warned that its "nuclear weapons and missile development threaten the entire word with unthinkable loss of life."

The comments, in the White House Rose Garden, came after the US Treasury announced sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 executives.

Earlier, for the first time, Trump also publicly accused Pyongyang of abusing the late 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, an allegation likely to heighten tensions between the two nuclear powers.

Last June the Ohio native was sent home in a coma after more than a year in prison in North Korea. He died a few days later.

Aides say Trump was personally shocked and angered by Warmbier's death, and that the government suspects mistreatment.

But the US president had stopped short of publicly accusing the regime of torture, a move that would raise expectations of a tough response, escalate tensions and could complicate any future releases.

Since June, the United States and North Korea have traded military moves and bombastic insults in a stand-off over Kim Jong-Un's nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

After seeing Warmbier's parents on television Tuesday morning, Trump cast previous concerns aside.

"Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea," he said in an early morning tweet.

- 'No winners' -

The missive came just hours after South Korea -- whose densely-populated capital Seoul is just 35 miles from the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula -- asked its US ally to take the heat out of the situation.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha visited Washington to warn it was imperative to "prevent further escalation of tensions or any kind of accidental military clashes which can quickly go out of control."

Similarly, China, the North's neighbor and only major ally, warned Tuesday that any conflict would have "no winners."

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said rhetorical sparring "will only increase the risk of confrontation and reduce the room for policy maneuver."

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, visiting India, stressed that Washington wants a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis.

US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joe Dunford said tensions were political rather than military.

"While the political space is clearly very charged right now, we haven't seen a change in the posture of North Korean forces. We watch that very carefully," he said.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un traded barbs in the wake of the North's sixth nuclear bomb and multiple missile tests.

Pyongyang says it needs the weapons to defend itself against the threat of a US invasion.

- Firing missives -

Alarm over Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs dominated the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, amid fears the heated rhetoric could accidentally trigger a war.

In his UN address last week, Trump delivered the blunt threat to "totally destroy" North Korea if provoked, deriding leader Kim Jong-Un as "Rocket Man".

Kim hit back with a personal attack of his own, branding Trump "mentally deranged" and a "dotard" and warning he would "pay dearly".

The North's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho on Monday called a press conference to hit back at a US bomber mission near the North's coastline and a slew of bombastic warnings from the American president.

Taking umbrage at Trump's weekend tweet that North Korea's leadership "won't be around much longer" if it keeps up its threats, Ri told reporters the international community hoped that a "war of words" would "not turn into real actions."

"However, last weekend, Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer," said Ri, who attended this year's UN General Assembly session. "He declared a war on our country."

The White House said Ri's interpretation of Trump's saber-rattling as "absurd".

Fears of a clash were sharpened after US bombers flew off the coast of North Korea on Saturday -- going further north of the demilitarized zone than any US aircraft has flown this century.

"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country," Ri said.

"The question of who won't be around much longer will be answered then."

A Pentagon spokesman stressed the bombers flew in international airspace and had every right to do so.

South Korean intelligence said that, while Pyongyang did not appear to have picked up the presence of the US warplanes over the weekend, it had since bolstered its coastal defenses.

"North Korea relocated its warplanes and strengthened defenses along the east coast," said Lee Cheol-Woo, the chief of the National Assembly's intelligence committee.

US wants diplomatic end to N. Korea crisis: Mattis
New Delhi (AFP) Sept 26, 2017
The United States wants a diplomatic solution to the escalating nuclear crisis with North Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday, toning down the shrill rhetoric between the two countries. "We maintain the capability to deter North Korea's most dangerous threats but also to back up our diplomats in a manner that keeps this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm," he said in N ... read more

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