'Action must be taken against North Korea'

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US, China agree situation has intensified as US Navy deploys strike group near Korean peninsula

WASHINGTON: As the US navy deployed a strike group towards the western Pacific Ocean, to provide a presence near the Korean peninsula, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China agrees with the Trump administration that "action has to be taken" regarding North Korea.

Mr Tillerson told CBS' Face The Nation, in an interview broadcast yesterday, that when Mr Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at Mar-a-Lago last week, they "had extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea", The Guardian reported.

Mr Tillerson said: "President Xi clearly understands and, I think, agrees that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken."

He described a "shared view and no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become".

In view of the regional threat now posed by North Korean missile tests and nuclear ambitions, he said, the Chinese "do not believe the conditions are right today to engage in discussions with the government in Pyongyang".

"We're hopeful," he added, "that we can work together with the Chinese to change the conditions in the minds of the DPRK leadership. And then, at that point, perhaps discussions may be useful.

Earlier this month, North Korea tested a liquid-fuelled Scud missile which travelled only a fraction of its range.

The strike group, called Carl Vinson, includes an aircraft carrier and will make its way from Singapore towards the Korean peninsula, according to the official, who was not authorised to speak to the media and requested anonymity, Reuters reported.

"We feel the increased presence is necessary," the official said, citing North Korea's worrisome behaviour.

"US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson strike group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the western Pacific," said Commander Dave Benham, spokesman at US Pacific Command.

In a statement late on Saturday, the US Navy's Third Fleet said the strike group had been directed to sail north, but it did not specify the destination.

The military vessels will operate in the western Pacific rather than making previously planned port visits to Australia, it added.

This year, North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, have repeatedly indicated an intercontinental ballistic missile test or something similar could be coming, possibly as soon as April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korea's founding president.

US options to try to curb North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes include economic and military measures but lean more towards sanctions and increased pressure on Beijing to rein in its reclusive neighbour.

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