North Korea's War Threats Bring China, South Korea and the U.S. Together to Avoid Nuclear Warfare

Significant diplomatic efforts by the United States, South Korea and China, intended to curb and calm fears over North Korea’s threats of war and nuclear strikes, have both quietly and publicly built up ahead of President Donald Trump’s 12-day trip to Asia beginning Friday.

Despite Trump's repeated statements that diplomatic talks were pointless, the U.S. recently opened talks with Pyongyang through its United Nations mission, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing a State Department official. Trump has also routinely called for China to increase its involvement in the tense situation and to reel in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

The Reuters report was the first indication that the U.S. was still pursuing a diplomatic solution to the North’s frequent and increasing nuclear and missile defense tests, which have come on top of threats to the U.S. mainland and territories like Guam. A top U.S. ambassador and negotiator, Joseph Yun, was reportedly in "contact" with the mission.

“It has not been limited at all, both [in] frequency and substance,” a senior State Department official told Reuters.

Meanwhile, China, the North’s main ally and economic partner, and South Korea have agreed to work together to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. "The two sides attach great importance to the Korea-China relationship,” a statement from the South’s Foreign Ministry said.

GettyImages-867609376 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory in a photo released October 29. Despite his threats against the U.S., diplomatic efforts have been underway prior to President Donald Trump's trip to Asia. KCNA via AFP/Getty Images

For China, such a measure was key as it pushed aside its criticism of Seoul for allowing the U.S. to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system there in July. South Korea President Moon Jae-in emphasized Wednesday that the entire peninsula should be denuclearized.

"According to the joint denuclearization declaration made by North and South Korea, we cannot tolerate or recognize North Korea as a nuclear state. We, too, will not develop nuclear [weapons] or own them," Moon said, speaking before the South’s parliament.

He added, "Our government was launched in the most serious of times in terms of security. The government is making efforts to stably manage the situation it faces, as well as to bring about peace on the Korean Peninsula."

Trump was scheduled to visit South Korea, China, Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines during his trip, but it was announced earlier this week he would not go to the Korean demilitarized zone that divides the North and South.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month that talks with North Korea were ongoing, though Trump was seen as undercutting his top diplomat by suggesting ominously that Pyongyang only “understood one thing.” 

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