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US carrier group heads for Korean waters, China calls for restraint

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Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to exercise restraint on Monday in a telephone call about North Korea with US President Donald Trump, as Japan conducted exercises with a US aircraft carrier strike group headed for Korean waters.

[BEIJING] Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to exercise restraint on Monday in a telephone call about North Korea with US President Donald Trump, as Japan conducted exercises with a US aircraft carrier strike group headed for Korean waters.

Mr Trump sent the carrier group for exercises in waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning, amid growing fears North Korea could conduct another nuclear test in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

Angered by the approach of the USS Carl Vinson carrier group, a defiant North Korea said on Monday the deployment was"an extremely dangerous act by those who plan a nuclear war to invade". "The United States should not run amok and should consider carefully any catastrophic consequence from its foolish military provocative act," Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary on Monday. "What's only laid for aggressors is dead bodies," the newspaper said.

Two Japanese destroyers have joined the carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific, and South Korea said on Monday it was also in talks about holding joint naval exercises.

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Worry that North Korea could be preparing to conduct another nuclear test or launch more ballistic missiles has increased as it prepares to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday.

It has marked similar events in the past with nuclear tests or missile launches.

Mr Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.

China is North Korea's sole major ally but has been angered by its nuclear and missile programmes and is frustrated by its belligerence.

China, which has repeatedly called for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, is worried the situation could spin out of control, leading to war and a chaotic collapse of its isolated, impoverished neighbour.

Mr Trump, in his phone call with Mr Xi, criticised North Korea's"continued belligerence" and emphasised that its actions "are destabilising the Korean peninsula", the White House said. "The two leaders reaffirmed the urgency of the threat posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes, and committed to strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," it said.

Mr Xi told Mr Trump China resolutely opposed any actions that ran counter to UN Security Council resolutions, China's foreign ministry said.

China "hopes that all relevant sides exercise restraint, and avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation", the Chinese ministry said in a statement, paraphrasing Mr Xi.

The call between the presidents was the latest manifestation of their close communication, which was good for their countries and the world, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.

REUTERS

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