Trump explained US position on THAAD to Xi: South Korea

POOL via CNN

POOL via CNN

"The Presidents' discussions on North Korea were very wide-ranging, very comprehensive, and more focused entirely on both countries' previous commitments to denuclearise the peninsula.?There was no kind of a package arrangement discussed to resolve this", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

The response by North Korea's foreign ministry, carried by the official KCNA news agency, was the first since U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of missiles at a Syrian air base which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack earlier in the week.

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.

The most powerful message for the Chinese leader may have been Trump's decision to launch missile strikes at Syria, adding weight to Trump's threat to act unilaterally against North Korea's weapons program.

Over the weekend, state news agency Xinhua called the strikes the act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles and "overcome accusations that he was 'pro-Russia, '" according to The New York Times.

Several North Korean anniversaries in April could be an opportunity for Pyongyang to conduct nuclear or missile tests, South Korean defense ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said.

South Korea's top nuclear envoy made the comment after talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei, as the United States sent a naval strike group to the region in a show of force.

This comes as Trump's national security aides completed a review of the options the USA has to curb Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.

At the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il disappeared from public view for around six weeks - and was widely believed to have gone into hiding for fear of a U.S. attack.

"It probably is not realistic for the United States to attack North Korea", a Japanese defence ministry source said. But it has been reluctant to put too much pressure on the North Korean regime.

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The question then arises as to what impact the USA president's willingness to exercise his military muscle may have on China's thinking.

The anticipated showdown between the United States and China over trade and North Korea has ended with little sign of confrontation — or concrete progress in resolving differences.

In January, Trump threatened to impose a 45 percent tax on Chinese imports, and has used strong rhetoric against the country-calling China the "grand champions" of currency manipulation, and accusing the Chinese of "taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S.in totally one-sided trade".

In that context, the strike against Syria may resonate more firmly in Beijing than Pyongyang. "We would be happy to work with them", he said.

While China has clearly lost patience with Pyongyang's nuclear provocations, it is extremely wary of any response that might bring about North Korea's collapse and chaos on its doorstep. "And then finally move towards a political solution, because at the end of the day this is a complicated situation, there are no easy answers and a political solution is going to have to happen", she said in the interview with anchor Jake Tapper.

He added, "It is assumed that North Korea would finish sophisticating its nuclear capabilities through the last nuclear test ahead of the launch of a new administration in the South before seeking to mend the fence with the new administration using a nuclear test freeze as a negotiating card".

"A small kick could provoke big disasters".

At the meeting, Xi also invited Trump to visit to China this year.

One exception was the nationalist-leaning Global Times, which suggested that Trump's "show of force" was rash and ill-considered.

A statement from Syria's general military command said the strikes caused "extensive material damage" and undermined counterterror operations by the Syrian army.

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