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U.S. submarine makes South Korea port call, North remains defiant

News 25 Apr 2017

left right The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine, arrives at a naval base in Busan, South Korea, April 25, 2017. Cho Jueong-ho/Yonhap via REUTERS 1/10 left right The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine, arrives at a naval base in Busan, South Korea, April 25, 2017. Cho Jueong-ho/Yonhap via REUTERS 2/10 left right The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine, arrives at a naval base in Busan, South Korea, April 25, 2017. Cho Jueong-ho/Yonhap via REUTERS 3/10 left right The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), front, leads the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112 and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), in the Indian ocean April 14, 2017.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danny Kelley/Handout via REUTERS 4/10 left right FILE PHOTO: The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Sunda Strait, Indonesia on April 15, 2017. Sean M. Castellano/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS/File photo 5/10 left right The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the South China Sea while conducting flight operations on April 9, 2017. Z.A. Landers/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS 6/10 left right Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump pose for a photograph before attending dinner at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria 7/10 left right U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping chat as they walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria 8/10 left right North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un cuts a ribbon during a ceremony in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 16, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS 9/10 left right Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj 10/10 By Ju-min Park | SEOUL

SEOUL A nuclear-powered U.S. submarine made a port call in South Korea on Tuesday in a show of force amid concerns that North Korea may mark the foundation of its military with a missile launch or a nuclear test, defying U.S. and Chinese pressure.

The port call by the USS Michigan, announced by the U.S. military in South Korea, came as the top nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan, and the United States were to meet in Tokyo to discuss responses to the North's refusal to give up its nuclear program.

The USS Michigan is built to carry submarine-launched ballistic missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

U.S. President Donald Trump called for tougher new U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang on Monday, saying the North was a global threat and "a problem that we have to finally solve".

"The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable," Trump told a meeting with the 15 U.N. Security Council ambassadors, including China and Russia, at the White House. "The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

South Korean and U.S. officials have feared for some time that a sixth North Korean nuclear test could be imminent. Speculation has grown that such a test, or another long-range missile launch, could coincide with the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the North's Korean People's Army on Tuesday.

The official China Daily said on Tuesday it was time for Pyongyang and Washington to take a step back from harsh rhetoric and heed the voices of reason calling for a peaceful resolution.

"Judging from their recent words and deeds, policymakers in Pyongyang have seriously misread the U.N. sanctions, which are aimed at its nuclear/missile provocations, not its system or leadership," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"They are at once perilously overestimating their own strength and underestimating the hazards they are brewing for themselves," it said.

In a phone conversation with Trump on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to exercise restraint.

Two Japanese destroyers conducted exercises on Monday with a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group that is also headed for Korean waters, sent by Trump as a warning to the North.

Trump has also sought to pressure China to do more to rein in its nuclear-armed neighbor.

China, North Korea's sole major ally, has in turn been angered by Pyongyang's belligerence, as well as its nuclear and missile programs.

Regardless, North Korea has carried out nuclear and missile tests in defiance of successive rounds of United Nations sanctions.

Angered by the approach of the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group, which could arrive within days, North Korea said 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 North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Steve Holland, Matt Spetalnick, Susan Heavey and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait)

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