US Increases Pressure on North Korea Ahead of Military Anniversary

24 April, 2017

President Donald Trump spoke with the leaders of China and Japan about tensions related to the possibility of North Korea's weapons tests.

The phone calls took place as North Korea prepares to mark the 85th anniversary of the establishment of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday.

The Trump administration released a statement saying the president criticized North Korea's "belligerence" saying the country's actions were harming security on the Korean Peninsula.

The statement also said the two leaders agreed on the urgency of the threat presented by North Korea's missile and nuclear programs. It said the two leaders were committed to "strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Chinese state media reported that Xi said he hopes "all parties will exercise restraint" over the issue of North Korea. He also restated the position that China opposes anything against United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Trump also spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for 30 minutes. Abe told reporters in Tokyo Monday, "We agreed to strongly demand (that) North Korea, which is repeating its provocation, show restraint."

He added that, "We will maintain close contact with the United States, maintain a high level of vigilance and firmly respond."

U.S. aircraft carrier nears the Korean Peninsula

The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson is among several U.S. warships traveling to waters near the Korean Peninusula.
The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson is among several U.S. warships traveling to waters near the Korean Peninusula.

The discussions with the Japanese and Chinese leaders take place as the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and a group of warships travel to waters near the Korean Peninsula. Officials in Seoul said Monday that the strike group is to carry out joint exercises with South Korean naval ships.

A Ministry of National Defense spokesman did not provide further details.

There are concerns that North Korea may carry out a long-range missile launch or another nuclear test on the military anniversary date.

North Korea reacted angrily to news of U.S. warships nearing the area in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper. Officials said the country is "combat-ready" to oppose the nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

China may increase pressure on North Korea over tests

China may be showing a greater willingness to pressure North Korea over its nuclear tests. An editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the Global Times, stated that another test would likely result in "decreasing the amount of petroleum exported to North Korea."

Reports over the weekend suggest that the price of gasoline in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, has more than doubled. It is unclear if the price increase and possible shortage are the result of decreased supplies or the threat of a cut in exports.

China is North Korea's largest trading partner and provides nearly 90 percent of its oil.

U.S. President Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to pressure its neighbor over activities not permitted by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The Global Times editorial also said "Beijing should oppose the move by diplomatic channels rather than get involved through military actions."

However, the editorial said China would get involved militarily if South Korean and U.S. troops crossed the Korean border in an effort to oust the regime.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said Monday that the editorial, although not official policy, shows China is taking a more active part in controlling North Korea.

North Korea detains another American

On Saturday, North Korea detained a Korean-American who was teaching in

Pyongyang. The man identified as Tony Kim was teaching at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). Evangelical Christians established and partly fund the university, which teaches students who are children of the country's leaders.

Kim was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport as he was about to leave the country.

The chancellor of the University, Chan-Mo Park, said the reason for the arrest is not known. However, he told Reuters that it may have been related to an outside activity such as helping an orphanage.

Two other Americans are now held by North Korea.

Kim Dong Chul, a missionary, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for subversion. Otto Warmbier, an American college student, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to steal a political poster.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

This story is based on reports from Steve Herman, Brian Padden, Zladica Hoke and Fern Robinson. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

vigilance –n. watchfulness, carefully noting signs of danger

provocation –n. an action that causes someone to become angry

belligerence –n. an aggressive or angry action

editorial –n. writing that gives the opinions of a publication's editors

regime –n. a form of government

obligations –n. things that are required by law or because of a promise or requirement

circumstances –n. a condition or fact that affects a situation