NORTH KOREA: WORLD ON THE BRINK
SIX-PAGE SPECIAL: INCLUDING IAIN MACWHIRTER & DAVID PRATT
CHINESE president Xi Jinping has made a plea for cool-headedness over escalating nuclear tensions between the US and North Korea. In a phone conversation with US President Donald Trump yesterday, he urged both sides to avoid words or actions that could worsen the situation.
The call came after Trump unleashed a slew of fresh threats against North Korea, declaring the US military “locked and loaded” and warning North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he “will regret it fast” if he takes any action against US territories or allies.
Trump has pushed China to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons programme 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 cannot compel Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programmes. 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”.
But restraint was not been the watchword of Trump who has sent out a cascade of unscripted statements, including what appeared to be another red line – the mere utterance of threats – that would trigger a US attack against North Korea and “big, big trouble” for Kim.
North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper hit back at the US in an editorial on Satur- day. “The powerful revolutionary Paektusan army of the DPRK, capable of fighting any war the US wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its mainland, waiting for an order of final attack,” it said.
DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The tough talk capped a week in which longstanding tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over. New United Nations sanctions condemning the North’s rapidly developing nuclear programme drew fresh ire and threats from Pyongyang. Trump, responding to a report that US intelligence indicates Pyongyang can now put a nuclear warhead on its longrange missiles, vowed to rain down “fire and fury” if challenged. The North then came out with a threat to lob four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles near Guam, a tiny US territory some 3,200km (2,000 miles) from Pyongyang.
At Trump’s New Jersey golf course, the President seemed to put Kim on notice, saying: “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat – which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years – or he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
Meanwhile, Japan’s prime minister has said he will do everything he can to protect people as tensions escalate over North Korean plans to send missiles flying over Japan toward Guam.
“I will do everything, to the best of my ability, to protect the safety and property of the Japanese people,” Shinzo Abe said on Saturday, while visiting his father’s tomb in his ancestral home town of Nagato, western Japan. The Japanese defence ministry said on Friday it was deploying four surface-to-air Patriot interceptors in western Japan to respond to a possible risk of fragments falling from missiles. The ministry did not confirm whether defence minister Itsunori Onodera has already issued an order to shoot down incoming missiles.
In another development, Guam residents were warned they should take cover from a North Korean missile attack quickly, in a concrete structure, preferably underground – and stay there until told otherwise, according to a survival guide. The US island territory’s Office of Civil Defence began distributing fact sheets, Preparing For An Imminent Missile Threat, on Friday to help people prepare for an attack. The guidance includes tips on building an emergency kit, advice on staying put in concrete or brick structures, and reminders about keeping calm.
“Do not look at the flash or fireball – it can blind you,” the fact sheet advises those who are caught outside. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head.”
The leaflet also offers guidance on removing radioactive material, saying: “When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination.” But do not scratch skin and “do not use conditioner because it will bind radioactive material to your hair”.
Officials have not raised the territory’s threat level even after Pyongyang laid out plans to strike near the island in the coming weeks, Guam governor Eddie Calvo said. He noted that Guam had many buildings made to withstand powerful typhoons, but acknowledged that noth-
BY BRIDGET MORRIS I have to say Eddie, you’re going to become extremely famous. All over the world they’re talking about you. And your tourism
ing can protect against a thermonuclear attack. Trump assured Calvo that Guam was safe during a phone call. “We are with you 1,000 per cent,” Trump said, according to video of the call posted on Calvo’s Facebook page. “You are safe.”
He added: “I have to say Eddie, you’re going to become extremely famous. All over the world they’re talking about you. And your tourism. I can say this, your tourism is going to go up like tenfold with the expenditure of no money so I congratulate you. It looks beautiful, you know I’m watching.”
Calvo responded by saying he feels safe and confident with Trump’s leadership: “I’m glad you’re at the helm, Sir.”