China's Xi Jinping calls Donald Trump, urges peaceful North Korea resolution

Chinese leader Xi Jinping says US President Donald Trump should exercise restraint in the North Korea crisis. Trump said Friday the US military was "locked and loaded," as Pyongyang accused him of war mongering.

In a telephone call to Donald Trump on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged a peaceful resolution to the ongoing North Korea crisis.

Xi told Trump that it was in the interest of both China and the US to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and stability in the region.

"The relevant side must at present exercise restraint, and avoid words and actions that exacerbate tensions on the Korean Peninsula," Chinese state TV paraphrased Xi as saying.

Read: What is China's role in the North Korean crisis?

Trump issued another stern warning to North Korea's communist regime on Friday, saying the US military was "locked and loaded" if Pyongyang chose to target US facilities or its allies in the region.

"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un [North Korean leader] will find another path," he added.

Referring to Kim again, Trump said, "If he utters one threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam or any place that's an American territory or an American ally, he will fully regret it, and he will regret it fast."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday condemned the escalating rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington, saying that Berlin believed the conflict could not be solved by military means.

"Germany will very intensively take part in the options for resolution that are not military but I consider a verbal escalation to be the wrong response," Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

Trump brushed aside Merkel's criticism of the increasing tension between the United States and North Korea, saying she did not speak for his country.

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Japan readies Patriot defense system

Japan on Saturday started deploying its missile defense system after North Korea threatened to fire ballistic missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Read: Guam - what you need to know

The defense ministry said Saturday the military was putting in place the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system in Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi n western Japan, which could be along a potential North Korean missile path.

Read: Nations start to choose sides in event of North Korea war

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief government spokesman, said earlier this week that Tokyo "can never tolerate" provocations from the North and Japanese military would "take necessary measures" to deal with the situation.

North Korean military officials said Thursday that plans to launch missiles towards the US island territory of Guam would be ready by mid-August. Afterwards, they will be presented to the country's leader Kim Jong Un.

The plans called for four intermediate-range missiles to fly over Japan and land in the sea 30-40 km (18-25 miles) from Guam, according to the North Korean report.

Earlier this week, Trump warned that the US would bring "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it provoked the US again, which was followed by North Korea's Guam threat.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula ramped up after Pyongyang carried out two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches last month.

The tests prompted the United Nations Security Council to unanimously pass its seventh round of UN sanctions that could cost North Korea $1 billion (849 million euro) per year.

- Does the US have to accept North Korea as a nuclear power?


Major achievement

In early June 2017, North Korea test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time. Testing an ICBM marked a major military achievement for Pyongyang and a serious escalation of tensions with the United States and its allies in the region, particularly South Korea and Japan.


Trouble with warheads

At the time, defense experts said the ICBM could reach as far as the US states of Alaska and Hawaii. However, it was unclear if North Korea can field an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on its cone that could survive reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. North Korean state media claimed the ICBM was capable of carrying a "large, heavy nuclear warhead" to any part of the United States.


Pyongyang's nuclear tests - six times and counting

The ICBM is believed to be a step forward in the North's nuclear program. Despite pressure from the international community, Pyongyang has made no secret of its nuclear ambitions. Alongside its ritual ballistic missile tests, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests on at least six occasions, including one in September 2017.


US running out of patience?

Responding to the first ICBM test with a show of force, the US and South Korean troops on conducted "deep strike" precision missile drills using Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea's Hyunmoo Missile II. In April, the US sent its Carl Vinson aircraft carrier towards the Korean Peninsula, saying it was taking prudent measures against the North.


Testing the boundaries

Ignoring international condemnation, Pyongyang test-launched another rocket on July 28, 2017, just weeks after its first ICBM test. In both of the tests, North Korea used Hwasong-14 missile, but the second one reached a higher altitude and traveled a larger distance than the first one, according to the state media.


Whole of US within range?

Pyongyang conducted its third test November 29, using a newly developed Hwasong-15 missile. US, Japanese and South Korean officials said it rose to about 4,500 km (2,800 miles) and flew 960 kilometers (600 miles) over about 50 minutes before landing in Japan's exclusive economic zone off the country's coast.


One of the world's largest militaries

Apart from a developing missile and nuclear program, North Korea has a powerful army with 700,000 active troops and another 4.5 million in the reserves. It can call upon almost a quarter of its population to serve in the army at any given time. The North's bloated army is believed to outnumber its southern neighbor's by two-to-one.


Vast capabilities

According to the 2017 Global Firepower Index, the North has, as part of a far-reaching arsenal, 458 fighter aircraft, 5,025 combat tanks, 76 submarines, and 5,200,000 total military personnel. The picture above from 2013 shows leader Kim Jong Un ordering strategic rocket forces to be on standby to strike US and South Korean targets at any time.


Enemies all around

Alongside the United States, Pyongyang views its neighbors South Korea and Japan as its two other main enemies. North Korea has used US military exercises in the region as means of galvanizing its people, claiming that the exercises are dress rehearsals for an impending invasion.


Huge, colorful demonstrations of military might

Every year, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and citizens roll through the streets of the capital Pyongyang to take part in the North's military parades. Preparations for the rallies often begin months in advance, and the parades usually mark important anniversaries linked with the Communist Party or Kim Jong Un's family.

shs/ng  (AFP, Reuters)