World

Xi urges 'restraint' over N Korea as US carrier approaches

The US leader has repeatedly called on China, the North's sole major ally, to do more to rein in Pyongyang, as tensions in the region soar amid speculation it will conduct another nuclear test.

"(China) hopes that the relevant parties can maintain restraint and avoid actions that would increase tensions in the Korean peninsula," Xi said, according to the foreign ministry.

"The only way to realise denuclearisation in the Korean peninsula and quickly resolve North Korea's nuclear problem is for each relevant party to fulfil its duties." 

The conversation -- the second since their summit at Trump's luxury resort in Florida early this month -- highlights rising concern in Beijing that tensions between Washington and Pyongyang could spiral into military conflict.

"The international situation is rapidly changing, it is essential that China and the US maintain a close contact and exchange opinions on important matters in a timely manner," Xi told Trump.

Trump also spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today, discussing the joint drills under way between the US carrier Carl Vinson and Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force.

"We completely agreed that we strongly demand restraint by North Korea, which has repeatedly taken dangerous provocative actions," Abe told reporters after the call.

Tensions have soared in recent months as North Korean missile tests have brought ever-more bellicose warnings from Trump's administration -- and repeated demands for China do more to help.

Despite its longstanding ties with the North, China has stepped up pressure, announcing in February that it was halting all imports of coal from North Korea -- a crucial earner for Pyongyang -- for the rest of the year.

It also issued a stern warning earlier this month that a conflict over North Korea could break out "at any moment".

The comments came ahead of a failed missile test a day after the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il-Sung.

Missile and nuclear tests are often timed around major dates and speculation is now focused on Tuesday's anniversary of the founding of its military.

US Vice President Mike Pence said today that the Vinson and its strike group would arrive in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) -- which sits between the Korean peninsula and Japan -- "in a matter of days".

South Korea also said it was considering drills with the carrier group, which is currently conducting joint exercises with Japan in the Philippine Sea.

Confusion had clouded the carrier's whereabouts after Trump earlier indicated the "armada" was steaming towards North Korea when in fact it was heading south and was photographed off Java.

The North's ruling party newspaper today called the Vinson's deployment "undisguised military blackmail".

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