U.S. warns of possible conflict with North Korea, China says situation could escalate

News 28 Apr 2017

left right The USS Carl Vinson transits the Philippine Sea while conducting a bilateral exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force April 23, 2017.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Handout via REUTERS 1/18 left right A military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) is seen in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017. KCNA/Handout via REUTERS 2/18 left right U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria 3/18 left right North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017. KCNA/Handout via REUTERS 4/18 left right A U.S. Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the 'Blue Hawks' of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 fires chaff flares during a training exercise near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the Philippine Sea April 24, 2017. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Handout via REUTERS 5/18 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 6/18 left right An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the 'Kestrels' of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137 takes off from the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transiting the South China Sea April 10, 2017.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Handout via REUTERS 7/18 left right A U.S. Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the 'Blue Hawks' of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 fires chaff flares during a training exercise near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the Philippine Sea April 24, 2017. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Handout via REUTERS 8/18 left right The Nimitz-class U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Philippine Sea while conducting a bilateral exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force April 23, 2017.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Handout via REUTERS 9/18 left right A U.S. Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the 'Blue Hawks' of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 fires chaff flares during a training exercise near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the Philippine Sea April 24, 2017. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Handout via REUTERS 10/18 left right A U.S. Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the 'Blue Hawks' of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 fires chaff flares during a training exercise near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the Philippine Sea April 24, 2017. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Handout via REUTERS 11/18 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 12/18 left right A military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) is seen in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. KCNA/Handout 13/18 left right A military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) is seen in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017. KCNA/Handout via REUTERS 14/18 left right A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor (R) is seen in Seongju, South Korea, April 26, 2017. Picture taken April 26, 2017. Lee Jong-hyeon/News1 via REUTERS 15/18 left right North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un visited the Thaechon Pig Farm of the Air and Anti-Air Force of the Korean People's Army in this undated handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 23, 2017. KCNA/Handout via REUTERS 16/18 left right Explosions are seen at a target, during a U.S.-South Korea joint live-fire military exercise, at a training field, near the demilitarized zone, separating the two Koreas in Pocheon, South Korea April 21, 2017. Picture taken on April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 17/18 left right U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford depart after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on North Korea at the White House in Washington, U.S, April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 18/18 By Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump said a major conflict with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, while China said the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control.

Trump, speaking to Reuters on Thursday, said he wanted to peacefully resolve the crisis, possibly through the use of new economic sanctions, although a military option was not off the table.

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea," Trump said in an interview at the Oval Office.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there was a danger that the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control, according to China's foreign ministry.

Wang made the comments in a meeting with a Russian diplomat on Thursday at the United Nations, the ministry said in a statement.

China, the only major ally of North Korea, has been increasingly uncomfortable in recent months about its neighbor's pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in violation on U.N. resolutions.

Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for trying to rein in Pyongyang.

"I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He is a good man," Trump said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday China has asked North Korea not to conduct any more nuclear tests, and that Beijing had warned it would impose unilateral sanctions if the isolated state went ahead.

"We were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own," Tillerson said on Fox News, without specifying what sanctions he was referring to.

Tillerson did not say when China made the threat and there was no immediate confirmation from Beijing. He is due to chair a meeting with U.N Security Council foreign ministers on Friday, where he said he would stress the need for members to fully implement existing sanctions as well as possible next steps.

China banned imports of North Korean coal in February, cutting off its most important export, and Chinese media this month raised the possibility of restricting oil shipments to the North if it unleashed more provocations.

China has long promoted dialogue to resolve the Korean nuclear issue as North Korea has repeatedly threatened to destroy the United States.

Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile, a capability experts say Pyongyang could have some time after 2020.

Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on North Korea and other countries on Thursday to avoid behavior or rhetoric that could increase tensions around Pyongyang's nuclear program.

For an interactive graphic on North Korea's show of force, click here

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart, Matt Spetalnick, Eric Beech and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Denis Pinchuk and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Michael Perry)

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