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News Story
Updated: 08/13/2017 01:19:00AM

Xi calls for calm after Trump said US is ‘locked and loaded’

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A PAC-3 interceptor is deployed in the compound of a garrison of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in Konan, Kochi prefecture, Japan, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Japan started deploying land-based Patriot interceptors after North Korea threatened to send ballistic missiles flying over western Japan and landing near Guam. The Defense Ministry said Friday the PAC-3 surface-to-air interceptors are being deployed at four locations - Hiroshima, Kochi, Shimane and Ehime. (Ryosuke Ozawa/Kyodo News via AP)

President Donald Trump gestures as he answers question regarding the ongoing situation in North Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A PAC-3 interceptor unit arrives at a garrison of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in Kaita, Hiroshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Japan started deploying land-based Patriot interceptors after North Korea threatened to send ballistic missiles flying over western Japan and landing near Guam. The Defense Ministry said Friday the PAC-3 surface-to-air interceptors are being deployed at four locations - Hiroshima, Kochi, Shimane and Ehime. (Yosuke Mizuno/Kyodo News via AP)

U.S. soldiers fire a salute during a change of command and change of responsibility ceremony for Deputy Commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Force Command at Yongsan Garrison, a U.S. military base, in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

A man take a photo in front of a glass showing a map of the border area between North and South Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday issued fresh threats of swift and forceful retaliation against nuclear North Korea, declaring the U.S. military "locked and loaded" and warning that the communist country's leader "will regret it fast" if he takes any action against U.S. territories or allies. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

FILE - This file photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea's northwest, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this photo. No need to duck and cover just yet. U.S. intelligence officials are pretty sure North Korea can put a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental missile that could reach the United States. Experts aren’t convinced the bomb could survive the flight to America. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

Watch Room staff monitor news and updates and coordinate with agencies on local in an event of emergency Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 as Guam Homeland Security opens its 24-hour Watch Room operation in response to the threats from North Korea, in Hagatna, Guam. Guam officials are disseminating fact sheets to help residents prepare for a possible missile attack from North Korea. Guam's Office of Civil Defense began distributing the guidance Friday, which includes tips on building an emergency supply kit, advice on staying put in concrete structures and reminders about keeping calm. (AP Photo/Tassanee Vejpongsa)

A resident buys bottles of water at Home Depot in Guam Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The small U.S. territory of Guam has become a focal point after North Korea's army threatened to use ballistic missiles to create an "enveloping fire" around the island. The exclamation came after President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang of "fire and fury like the world has never seen." (AP Photo/Tassanee Vejpongsa)

A PAC-3 interceptor unit is deployed in the compound of a garrison of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in Konan, Kochi prefecture, Japan, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Japan started deploying land-based Patriot interceptors after North Korea threatened to send ballistic missiles flying over western Japan and landing near Guam. The Defense Ministry said Friday the PAC-3 surface-to-air interceptors are being deployed at four locations - Hiroshima, Kochi, Shimane and Ehime. (Ryosuke Ozawa/Kyodo News via AP)

A PAC-3 interceptor is deployed in the compound of a garrison of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in Konan, Kochi prefecture, Japan, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Japan started deploying land-based Patriot interceptors after North Korea threatened to send ballistic missiles flying over western Japan and landing near Guam. The Defense Ministry said Friday the PAC-3 surface-to-air interceptors are being deployed at four locations - Hiroshima, Kochi, Shimane and Ehime. (Ryosuke Ozawa/Kyodo News via AP)

In this Saturday, April 15, 2017, file photo, what analysts believe could be the North Korean Hwasong 12 is paraded across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. Threatening to fire a volley of missiles toward a major U.S. military hub _ and the home to 160,000 American civilians _ may seem like a pretty bad move for a country that is seriously outgunned and has an awful lot to lose. But pushing the envelope, or just threatening to do so, is what North Korea does best. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

This image made from video of a news bulletin aired by North Korea's KRT on Monday, May 15, 2017, shows what was said to be the launch of the Hwasong-12 missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Threatening to fire a volley of missiles toward a major U.S. military hub _ and the home to 160,000 American civilians _ may seem like a pretty bad move for a country that is seriously outgunned and has an awful lot to lose. But pushing the envelope, or just threatening to do so, is what North Korea does best. (KRT via AP Video, File)

In this image made from video, pedestrians walk beneath portraits of Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il, at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Despite tensions and talk of war, life on the streets of the North Korean capital Pyongyang remained calm. (AP Photo)

In this image made from video, people read newspapers displayed on the street in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Despite tensions and talk of war, life on the streets of the North Korean capital Pyongyang remained calm. (AP Photo)

By ERIC TALMADGE and JONATHAN LEMIRE

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SEOUL, South Korea — Chinese President Xi Jinping made a plea for cool-headedness over escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea in a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday, urging both sides to avoid words or actions that could worsen the situation.

The call came after Trump unleashed a slew of fresh threats against North Korea on Friday, declaring the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he “will regret it fast” if he takes any action against U.S. territories or allies.

Trump has pushed China to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons program that is nearing the capability of targeting the United States. China is the North’s biggest economic partner and source of aid, but says it alone can’t compel Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programs.

The White House said in a statement that Trump and Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior.” It also said that the two “reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

State-run China Central Television quoted Xi as telling Trump the “relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tension on the Korean Peninsula.”

But restraint was not the word of the day on Friday as Trump sent out a cascade of unscripted statements, including what appeared to be another red line — the mere utterance of threats — that would trigger a U.S. attack against North Korea and “big, big trouble” for Kim.

North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper, meanwhile, lashed back at the U.S. in an editorial Saturday.

“The powerful revolutionary Paektusan army of the DPRK, capable of fighting any war the U.S. wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its mainland, waiting for an order of final attack,” it said. DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The tough talk capped a week in which long-standing tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over.

New United Nations sanctions condemning the North’s rapidly developing nuclear program drew fresh ire and threats from Pyongyang. Trump, responding to a report that U.S. intelligence indicates Pyongyang can now put a nuclear warhead on its long-range missiles, vowed to rain down “fire and fury” if challenged.

The North then came out with a threat to lob four intermediate-range “Hwasong-12” missiles near Guam, a tiny U.S. territory some 2,000 miles from Pyongyang.

At the epicenter of the rhetoric, Trump’s New Jersey golf course, the president seemed to put Kim on notice, saying, “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat — which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years — or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”

Asked if the U.S. was going to war, he said cryptically, “I think you know the answer to that.”

But Trump’s comments did not appear to be backed by significant military mobilization on either side of the Pacific, and an important, quiet diplomatic channel remained open. As a precaution, Japan deployed missile defense batteries under the path a North Korean missile might take.

Life on the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, also remained calm.

There have been no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as has been the case during previous crises. State-run media ensures that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but doesn’t convey any sense of international concern about the situation.

U.S. officials say they will be going ahead with long-scheduled military exercises with South Korea. Pyongyang says it will be ready to send its missile launch plan to Kim for approval just before or as the drills begin.

Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. North Korea claims the exercises are a rehearsal for war, but Washington and Seoul say they are necessary to deter North Korean aggression.

Trump began his Friday barrage with an especially fiery tweet: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

He later retweeted a posting from U.S. Pacific Command that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to fulfill USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so.” “Fight tonight” has long been the motto of U.S. forces in South Korea to show they’re always ready for combat on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump also brushed away calls for caution from other world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel.

“I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for,” Merkel said Friday, calling on the U.N. Security Council to continue to address the crisis.

“I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer,” Merkel added.

“Let her speak for Germany,” Trump said, when asked about the comment. “Perhaps she is referring to Germany. She’s certainly not referring to the United States, that I can tell you.”

By evening, he seemed to have mellowed a bit.

“Hopefully it’ll all work out,” Trump said. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”

Speaking to Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, he promised: “You are safe. We are with you a thousand percent.”


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