President Donald Trump on Saturday reassured Guam it was secure amid mounting regional tensions, vowing that American military forces ‘stand ready’ to safeguard the US Pacific island territory against a belligerent North Korea while Pyongyang said that nearly 3.5 million workers, party members and soldiers volunteered to join or rejoin its army to resist new UN sanctions and to fight against US.
Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official newspaper, said the volunteers had offered to join or rejoin the People’s Army after the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) issued a statement on Monday condemning new sanctions imposed by the United Nations in retaliation for North Korean missile tests.
The North has threatened to fire ballistic missiles over Japan toward the tourism-dependent idyllic island, as Pyongyang and Washington ratchet up their war of words.
With Guam’s safety in the balance, Trump assured the territory’s governor Eddie Calvo: ‘We are with you 1000 per cent, you are safe.’
A member of Trump’s Republican Party, Calvo insisted during the two men’s call that ‘I have never felt more safe or so confident with you at the helm,’ according to his office.
‘We’re going to do a great job, don’t worry about a thing,’ Trump then added. ‘They should have had me eight years ago, or somebody with my thought process.’
Trump has warned the North that it would ‘truly regret’ attacking the US, and that the US military is ‘locked and loaded.’ Earlier this week, he threatened ‘fire and fury.’
The North’s official KCNA news service, for its part, accused Trump in an editorial of ‘driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war,’ calling the US ‘the heinous nuclear war fanatic.’
Key Pyongyang ally Beijing, meanwhile, has pleaded with Trump to tone down his rhetoric to prevent tensions from boiling over.
If North Korea does launch a missile strike, there is a public warning system in place and a 14-minute window to react, Guam Homeland Security said.
On Friday, it posted guidelines on its web-site about measures to take in the event of a nuclear attack.
‘Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours unless otherwise told by authorities,’ the advisory warned.
‘If caught outside, do not look at the flash or fireball – It can blind you. Take cover behind anything that might offer protection. Lie flat on the ground and cover your head.’
It also offered advice on removing radioactive fallout, telling residents to ‘take a shower with lots of soap and water,’ use shampoo but avoid conditioner ‘because it will bind radioactive material to your hair.’
Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged Trump to avoid rhetoric that could inflame tensions with North Korea as an escalating war of words raised global alarm.
Xi made the plea in a phone call hours after Trump ramped up his warnings to Pyongyang, saying the Stalinist regime would ‘truly regret’ taking hostile action against the United States.
The White House said in a statement that the two leaders ‘agreed North Korea must stop provocative and escalatory behaviour’ and that they are both committed to the denuclearisation of the peninsula.
But the Chinese foreign ministry said Xi urged Trump to avoid ‘words and deeds’ that would ‘exacerbate’ the already-tense situation, exercise restraint and seek a political settlement.
Trump has been engaged all week in verbal sparring with the North over its weapons and missile programmes, as US media reported Pyongyang has successfully miniaturised a nuclear warhead.
Japanese media said Tokyo was deploying its Patriot missile defence system following Pyongyang’s threat to fire ballistic missiles over the country towards Guam.
In another move that could further fan the flames, satellite photos posted by defence expert Joseph Bermudez suggested that North Korea could be preparing for fresh submarine-based ballistic missile tests.
China, North Korea’s biggest ally and trade partner, has been voicing concern at the angry exchanges and a state-run newspaper suggested that Beijing should stay neutral if Pyongyang struck the US first.
Previously accused by Trump of not doing enough to rein in the authoritarian regime, China voted in favour of a series of wide-sweeping UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea last weekend.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Trump told Xi over the phone that he ‘fully understands China’s role in the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula’. Trump is expected to visit China later this year.
A commentary published in the North Korean state-run newspaper Minju Joson called the warnings from Trump and ‘other riffraff of the US... the last-ditch efforts and hysteric fit of those who are in the grip of despair’ over the ‘tragic doom’ of the ‘American empire’.
The sabre-rattling has sparked worldwide concerns that a miscalculation by either side could trigger a catastrophic conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
A chorus of international voices – including Russia, Germany, France and the UK – have urged restraint in the crisis, while Seoul expressed appreciation for Xi and Trump’s phone call Saturday.
‘We hope today’s phone conversation between the two leaders will provide a momentum to defuse the highest-ever tension and to shift into a new phase of resolving the issue,’ said a statement from South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s office.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was ‘very alarmed’ at Trump’s tough talk, and said Washington should take the first step toward cooling tensions.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said diplomacy was the answer.
French president Emmanuel Macron echoed her call for talks, saying the international community needed to work to get Pyongyang to ‘resume the path of dialogue without conditions’.
Meanwhile British foreign secretary Boris Johnson blamed Pyongyang for the stand-off, saying on Twitter that the ‘North Korean regime is the cause of this problem and they must fix it’.
Tensions on the peninsula tend to increase when Seoul and Washington launch major military joint exercises, and the next one, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, is set to kick off around August 21.
US defence secretary Jim Mattis appeared intent Thursday on easing the tension, describing the prospect of war as ‘catastrophic’ and saying diplomacy remained the priority.
Relations between Washington and Pyongyang have been tense for months, in the wake of the North’s repeated missile tests, including two successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launches in July that are believed to have brought much of the US mainland within range.
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