Xi, Trump discuss Korean Peninsula situation for second time in a month

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

South Korean and U.S. officials have feared for some time that North Korea could soon carry out its sixth nuclear test.

Recent U.S. commercial satellite images indicate increased activity around North Korea's nuclear test site, and third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un has said that the country's preparation for an ICBM launch is in its "final stage". Visitors flocked to parks, with an increasing number of flowers and trees blooming as spring arrives.

North Korea often marks significant dates by displaying military capability, and South Korean officials say there's a chance the country will conduct its sixth nuclear test or its maiden test launch of an ICBM around the founding anniversary of its military on Tuesday, April 25.

The US leader has repeatedly called on China, the North's sole major ally, to do more to rein in Pyongyang, as tensions in the flashpoint region soar amid speculation it will conduct another nuclear test.

"We completely agreed to strongly seek self-restraint from North Korea, which is still continuing its unsafe provocative acts", Abe said at the prime minister's office.

China wields huge influence over the North Korean economy, accounting for more than 80% of its smaller neighbor's foreign trade and serving as its main gateway to the rest of the world.

South Korea's Defense Ministry has said the North appears ready to conduct such "strategic provocations" at any time.

"This is only going to inflame the situation and make it more hard for us to resolve the overarching issue of getting North Korea to stop developing a nuclear weapon", Locke said.

South Korea also said it was considering drills with the carrier group, which is now conducting joint exercises with Japan in the Philippine Sea.

With typical rhetorical flourish, the ministry said North Korea "will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own style and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the USA imperialists".

Adding to the heightened tensions, North Korea detained a USA citizen on Saturday as he attempted to leave the country.

Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, was detained as he was about to fly out of Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday morning.

The latest telephone conversation came less than two weeks after the two leaders last discussed the North's nuclear issue over the phone.

Despite North Korean threats, the probability that North Korea would choose to launch a nuclear strike is relatively low, but at the end of the day, Kim Jong-un, while not irrational or insane as some suspect, is very much a two-dimensional thinker who might decide to do the unthinkable if push came to shove. Sweden's diplomats take care of consular affairs on behalf of the U.S.in North Korea.

But it has never tested an intercontinental ballistic missile with sufficient range to reach the continental United States - although it has ambitions to develop one - nor is it known to have miniaturised atomic technology sufficiently to be able to fit a nuclear warhead on a rocket.

China and the global community could take other steps to pressure North Korea, such as banning its airline or expelling the workers its sends overseas to earn hard currency.

In March, North Korean state media reported that the country successfully conducted a ground test of a new high-thrust rocket engine, which it said was a breakthrough for its space program and efforts to create "Korean-style strategic weapons".

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