Gaso­line crunch sparks price hike, hoard­ing in North Korea.

Trump warns of ‘ma­jor’ con­flict

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RICHARD LARDNER AND ERIC TALMADGE

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son said Thurs­day that China has threat­ened to im­pose sanc­tions on North Korea if it con­ducts fur­ther nu­clear tests.

“We know that China is in com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the regime in Py­ongyang,” Mr. Tiller­son said on Fox News Chan­nel. “They con­firmed to us that they had re­quested the regime con­duct no fur­ther nu­clear test.”

Mr. Tiller­son said China also told the U.S. that it had in­formed North Korea “that if they did con­duct fur­ther nu­clear tests, China would be tak­ing sanc­tions ac­tions on their own.”

Ear­lier Thurs­day, the se­nior U.S. Navy of­fi­cer over­see­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the Pa­cific said the cri­sis with North Korea is at the worst point he’s ever seen, but he de­clined to com­pare the sit­u­a­tion to the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis decades ago.

“It’s real,” Adm. Harry Har­ris Jr. said dur­ing tes­ti­mony be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

Adm. Har­ris said he has no doubt that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in­tends to ful­fill his pur­suit of a nu­clear mis­sile ca­pa­ble of strik­ing the U.S. The ad­mi­ral ac­knowl­edged there’s un­cer­tainty within U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies over how far along North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams are. But Adm. Har­ris said the un­cer­tainty is over “when,” not “whether.”

“There is no doubt in my mind,” Adm. Har­ris said.

In an in­ter­view with Reuters news agency Thurs­day, Mr. Trump said that while the U.S. would pre­fer to solve the is­sues diplo­mat­i­cally, “there is a chance that we could end up hav­ing a ma­jor, ma­jor con­flict with North Korea. Ab­so­lutely.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clared that all op­tions, in­clud­ing a tar­geted mil­i­tary strike, are on the ta­ble to block North Korea from car­ry­ing out threats against the U.S. and its al­lies in the re­gion. But a pre-emp­tive at­tack isn’t likely, U.S. of­fi­cials have said, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion is pur­su­ing a strat­egy of putting pres­sure on Py­ongyang with as­sis­tance from China.

With in­ter­na­tional sup­port, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said Thurs­day it wants to ex­ert a “burst” of eco­nomic and diplo­matic pres­sure on North Korea that yields re­sults within months to push the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment to change course from de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons.

China is North Korea’s only ally, hav­ing saved the com­mu­nist regime via its in­ter­ven­tion in the Korean War, and is its prin­ci­pal trad­ing part­ner. The sanc­tions al­ready im­posed by Bei­jing are cost­ing Py­ongyang dearly.

Ear­lier this spring, China an­nounced that coal im­ports would cease for the rest of the year, pur­suant to United Na­tions sanc­tions it had helped pass.

The North Korean cap­i­tal is also be­ing hit by an acute short­age of gaso­line that has sparked price hikes and hoard­ing — and driv­ing ru­mors that China is to blame.

The short­age, which is ex­tremely un­usual, if not un­prece­dented, be­gan last week when signs went up at gas sta­tions around the city in­form­ing cus­tomers that re­stric­tions on sales would be put in place un­til fur­ther no­tice.

Prices, mean­while, have shot up. They had been fairly sta­ble, typ­i­cally at about 70 to 80 cents a kilo­gram, but on Wed­nes­day at least one sta­tion was charg­ing $1.40. One kilo­gram is roughly equiv­a­lent to one liter, so a gal­lon at the sta­tion now costs about $5.30.

China sup­plies most of en­ergy-poor North Korea’s fuel, and in lieu of of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion, ru­mors are rife that Bei­jing is be­hind the short­age.

Though trade be­tween North Korea and China ap­pears to be solid, there are in­di­ca­tions Bei­jing has been qui­etly tight­en­ing en­force­ment of some in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions aimed at get­ting Py­ongyang to aban­don its de­vel­op­ment of nu­clear weapons and long-range mis­siles.

Lim­it­ing the oil sup­ply has been openly dis­cussed in Bei­jing as one op­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gas sales have been re­stricted in the North Korean cap­i­tal of Py­ongyang with­out of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion, rais­ing con­cerns over when the sit­u­a­tion will re­turn to nor­mal. China sup­plies most of the coun­try’s fuel, spurring ru­mors that Bei­jing is be­hind the short­age.

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