China, on Monday, called on all parties to “show self-restraint” and avoid worsening the situation, two days after a group of US warships were ordered to change course and head to the waters off the Korean peninsula.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying told a press briefing when asked about China’s position on the deployment of the US warships.
“China is paying close attention to the development of the situation in the Korean peninsula.
“Under the current situation, each party should show self-restraint and not do anything that would cause the situation to escalate,’’ she said.
“US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” said Commander Dave Benham, spokesman at US Pacific Command.
“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” he told AFP.
The strike group includes the Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier USS Carl Vinson, a carrier air wing, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser.
Originally scheduled to make port calls in Australia, it headed instead from Singapore to the Western Pacific Ocean.
The North has carried out five nuclear tests — two of them last year — and expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth.
US intelligence officials say Pyongyang could be less than two years away from developing a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental United States.
Monday afternoon, Korea’s Chosun reported*, “the Chinese army has deployed about 150,000 troops in two groups to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.”
The forces were deployed to handle North Korean refugees and ‘unforeseen circumstances’, such as the prospect of preemptive attacks on North Korea, the news agency said.
On Thursday and Friday, US President Donald Trump hosted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for talks during which he pressed Pyongyang’s key ally to help curb the North’s nuclear weapons program.
Trump has threatened unilateral action against the hermit state, a threat that appears more palpable after he ordered a strike on a Syrian airfield following an apparent chemical attack.
The head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which provides missile detection and defense for the region, said Thursday she was “extremely confident” of US capability to intercept a potential intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bound for America from the North.
But General Lori Robinson expressed concerns for the type of ballistic missile powered by a solid-fuel engine that Pyongyang said it successfully tested in February.
“Amidst an unprecedented pace of North Korean strategic weapons testing, our ability to provide actionable warning continues to diminish,” Robinson said in written testimony to senators.
North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the East China Sea recently ahead of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.
Trump and Xi discussed the North Korean nuclear issue in their talks at the Mar-a-Lago resort.
*News reports suggest that this Korean report is false. The U.S. and China have not confirmed a Chinese troop deployment of this size to North Korean border.
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