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Xi, Trump make telephone call to discuss North Korean issue: China's foreign ministry

US President Donald Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Photo: Reuters 

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump exchanged views about the situation in the Korean Peninsula in a telephone call on Wednesday, China's foreign ministry said.

The telephone call comes one week after the two world leaders met for the first time at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

According to a statement published on the ministry's website, President Xi reiterated China's goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and called for peace and stability in the region.

"China advocates to resolve the issue through peaceful means, and is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the US on the issue of the Korean Peninsula," the statement quoted President Xi as saying.

In an editorial published on Wednesday, the Party-owned Global Times warned North Korea not to make mistakes under the circumstances, as its provocation "is reaching a tipping point" that will "point to the opposite direction."

"Presumably, Beijing will react strongly to Pyongyang's new nuclear actions. China will not remain indifferent to Pyongyang's aggravating violation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution," the editorial said, adding that China will be willing to see the UNSC adopt severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before.

On Tuesday, President Trump once again vented his impatience and concerns over North Korea on his Twitter account after the authoritarian country fired a ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan on April 5.

"I explained to the president of China that a trade deal with the US will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!" he tweeted. And just four minutes later, the US president wrote in a second tweet, "North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A."

The US has consistently urged China to put more pressure on North Korea, while China has repeatedly insisted that it has done a lot to rein in its unruly neighbor, which has accelerated its missile development and nuclear program since 2016.

Following North Korea's April 5 missile test, the Chinese government ordered the country's trading companies to turn back shipments of North Korean coal to its ports on April 7, Reuters reported.

China is the largest trading partner of the isolated North Korea, and is a major consumer of North Korean coal.

In response to North Korea's latest missile test, the US has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the waters of the Korean Peninsula, increasing concerns over a war in the region.

At a regular press conference on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged all parties involved to exercise restraint and avoid escalating the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The spokeswoman also denied previous reports that China deployed 150,000 troops to the border with North Korea in preparation for pre-emptive attacks after the US launched airstrikes in Syria following an alleged chemical attack last week.

David Dollar, a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, told the that President Trump's order to launch airstrikes on Syria, which happened during the meeting with President Xi, sent a clear message that the US would continue to take unilateral military action when dealing with regional tensions. It would intensify China's fears over America's direct military involvement in the North Korean issue and would lead to more Chinese economic sanctions on its neighbor, Dollar noted.

During a three-nation tour of East Asia in March, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the US would consider military action as an option if the threat of North Korea's weapons program reached a level that threatens the South Korean and American forces.

Regarding the situation in Syria, President Xi said in the telephone call that any use of chemical weapons is "unacceptable".

"We should stick to the direction of resolving the issue through political means. Maintaining unity within the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is very important to resolve the Syrian issue, and I hope that the UNSC will speak with one voice," President Xi said, according the ministry's statement.

North Korea has labeled the airstrikes against Syria as "absolutely unpardonable", defending that they prove its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington's "ever more reckless moves for a war".

Another stakeholder, Russia, has called the US airstrikes in Syria an "aggression" against a sovereign state and a violation of international law.

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