WASHINGTON — China’s President Xi Jinping called for a diplomatic resolution to the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and in a Friday evening telephone call with President Donald Trump urged restraint by both sides after days of threats and heated rhetoric.
Xi issued his plea for a calmer discussion just hours after Trump tweeted the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” and warned North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un he would “regret it” if he acted on his threat to aim missiles near the U.S. Air Force base in Guam.
“Relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” according to a statement by China’s foreign ministry about Xi’s telephone call with Trump.
The White House said that in the telephone call Trump and Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior,” and they “also reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump, who is on a working vacation at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, also pressured Xi on trade, an issue that the White House will be taking up in the days ahead.
Xi’s plea for a more peaceful rhetoric follows a week of heightening tensions between Trump and North Korea, and Trump’s expressions of disappointment that China has not done more to pressure Kim to scale back his nuclear ambitions.
On Friday, Trump said that North Korea would be in “big, big trouble” and that Kim would “regret it fast” if he even uttered “an overt threat” to any American territory or any of its allies.
In response, an editorial published Saturday in North Korea’s Minjus Joson newspaper said, “The powerful revolutionary Paektusan army of the [North Korea], capable of fighting any war the U.S. wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its mainland.”
Trump on Friday rejected advice to cool his rhetoric from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said she didn’t see a “military solution” to North Korea, adding, “I think escalating rhetoric is the wrong answer.” Trump responded, “Let her speak for Germany.”
On Friday evening, Trump also called Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo to assure him that “United States forces stand ready to ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam,” according to a White House statement.
Trump, who placed his call to Calvo after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke to him, told the Guam governor, “We are with you a thousand percent. You are safe, we are with you a thousand percent.”
Calvo responded, “As the governor representing the people of Guam, and as an American citizen, I’ve never felt so safe, or felt more confident, with you at the helm.”