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 Mr. Trump unleashed a slew of fresh threats against North Korea on Friday, declaring the U.S. militaryand warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he “will regret it fast” if he takes any action against U.S. territories or allies.
Mr. 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 Mr. 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.” But White House readouts of calls with foreign leaders in the Trump era are notoriously sparse in detail.
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 Mr. 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…