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G20: North Korea talks start early

July 7, 2017

The US President has dined with South Korea's Moon Jae-In and Japan's Shinzo Abe on the eve of the G20 summit. On the menu: North Korea's missile program and securing Beijing's cooperation in solving the crisis.

Deutschland | G20 | Südkoreas Präsident Moon Jae-In, US-Präsident Donald Trump, Japans Premierminister Shinzo Abe
Image: Reuters/C. Barria

North Korea's recent ballistic missile tests already dominated the Group of 20 (G20) talks in Hamburg on Thursday, a day before the summit even officially begins.

US President Donald Trump dined with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the eve the G20 summit, where the three sides agreed to push China to play a greater role in reining in Pyongyang.

Read more: What next after North Korea's 'ICBM test' - diplomacy or armed confrontation?

"We had very vivid conversation on the subject and the role of China was very important," Norio Maruyama, Japanese foreign ministry spokesman, said after the meeting. "North Korea now constitutes a new level of threat to Japan and a clear provocation to Japan and also to the international community."

US warns China over North Korea

While North Korea has effectively kept the world on edge in recent months by carrying out a series of missile tests, it was its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on Tuesday that marked a major milestone in its weapons program. The North's leader, Kim Jong Un, described it as the first of many "gifts" aimed at the US.

During a visit to Warsaw earlier on Thursday, Trump suggested that he was considering a "pretty sever" response to Pyongyang's latest act of aggression.

Asked whether any potential military action was discussed, Maruyama said that "there is no discussion about the specificity of other measures we could take."

Hope for Chinese intervention

The dinner between the three parties came just after Moon held talks Chinese President Xi Jingping, where both sides reportedly backed a UN Security Council resolution to impose tougher sanctions against North Korea.

As effectively its only ally, China finds itself under increasing pressure to deal with the reclusive state. While Beijing has backed calls for fresh sanctions, many world leaders – above all, Donald Trump – have called on it to do more dealing with the crisis.

Trump has openly questions China's commitment to dealing with the North, noting on Wednesday the two nations' expanding trade relationship.

However, on Thursday the US president indicated he was still hopeful that China would contribute to resolving the crisis, telling reporters he would "never give up" pushing Xi to act.

In the meantime, however, Chinese officials have urged all sides to tone down their language. "We also call on relevant parties to stay calm, exercise restraint, refrain from words and deeds that may heighten tensions," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Thursday.

Mattis: Conflict would be 'catastrophic'

While Trump underscored that the Pentagon was drawing up plans for dealing with North Korea, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said on Thursday that he did not believe Pyongyang's ICMB test had brought America closer to conflict.

"I do not believe this capability in itself brings us closer to war because the president has been very clear, and the secretary of state has been very clear, that we are leading with diplomatic and economic efforts," Mattis said. "As (Winston) Churchill put it, better to jaw-jaw than war-war."

While Trump said he was considering a "severe response," Mattis warned that launching a strike on North Korea would come nowhere to destroying its weapons arsenal and prompt Kim to swiftly retaliate with a long-range artillery attack on its southern neighbor.

While the US would surely prevail in an all-out conflict, it would "a catastrophic war," Mattis said.

dm/bw (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)