The Latest: Japan taking steps to respond to Korean crisis

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2017 9:15 AM
The Latest: Japan taking steps to respond to Korean crisis

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The Latest on tensions on the Korean Peninsula (all times local):

9:35 p.m.

Japan says it is maintaining high levels of surveillance and taking "every possible measure" to respond to any contingency on the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea is warning of war and more nuclear tests.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry declined to comment on specific parts of an Associated Press interview with North Korea's Vice Minister Han Song Ryol, who on Friday said his country will conduct its next nuclear test whenever its leadership sees fit. The U.S. says it is considering military action if that happens.

The Foreign Ministry says Japan is coordinating with the U.S., South Korea and other countries and will continue efforts to convince North Korea to refrain from further provocations and comply with U.N. resolutions banning Pyongyang's missile technology development.

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8:40 p.m.

A senior Russian lawmaker says the U.S. is a greater threat to global peace than North Korea.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, said Friday "the most alarming thing about the current U.S. administration is that you can't be sure if it is bluffing or really going to implement its threats."

He says "America objectively poses a greater threat to peace than North Korea," adding that "the entire world is scared and left guessing if it strikes or not."

Kosachev says there is a "small hope" that President Donald Trump's administration would listen to warnings from Russia and China not to use military force against nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

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6:30 p.m.

The Kremlin says it's watching the developments around North Korea with "great concern."

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russia is calling on all parties to show restraint and refrain from any provocative action. He emphasized that the crisis could only be settled by political and diplomatic means.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned the U.S. that attempts to rely on force to pressure North Korea will not help.

Tensions in the region have risen with the dispatch of a U.S. aircraft carrier to the area and the deployment of thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry for their biggest joint military exercises. Pyongyang has warned of war if it sees any signs of aggression from south of the Demilitarized Zone.

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5:45 p.m.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry has criticized comments by North Korea's vice foreign minister, who told The Associated Press that the North is capable of conducting another nuclear test at anytime and ready to "go to war" if the U.S. provokes it.

The ministry said Friday that Han Song Ryol's remarks reveal the "true colors of North Korea's government that is bellicose and a breaker of regulations."

It says North Korea will face strong punishment it will find hard to withstand if it makes a significant provocation, such as another nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile launch.

The ministry says South Korea is in close discussions with others including China, North Korea's only major ally, on ways to respond should the North take such actions.

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5 p.m.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says there would be no winners in an armed conflict between the U.S. and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Wang told reporters Friday that all sides must stop provoking and threatening each other in their words and actions and take a flexible approach to resuming dialogue.

Wang says: Once a war really happens, the result will be nothing but multiple-loss. No one can become a winner."

He says "no matter who it is, if it wants to make war or trouble on the Korean Peninsula, it must take the historical responsibility and pay the due price."

Wang says China would be willing to help facilitate efforts by the sides to reach out to each other in whatever form that takes.

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4:45 p.m.

Chinese experts see little immediate possibility of hostilities breaking out between the U.S. and North Korea, but say Beijing will respond harshly to any further North Korean nuclear tests.

Director of Jilin University's Institute of Northeast Asian Studies Guo Rui says President Donald Trump's domestic troubles should prevent him taking such action, while North Korea doesn't appear to be on a war footing.

Guo says although the tension on the Korean Peninsula is high, it's not high to the point of having an imminent war.

He says another nuclear test would invite tougher measures from Beijing, possibly including new restrictions on Chinese companies' investments in North Korea and cuts in the number of Chinese tourists allowed to visit.

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This item corrects spelling of Guo.

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12:40 p.m.

North Korea's vice foreign minister says President Donald Trump's policy toward the country is more "vicious and aggressive" than President Barack Obama's.

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol told The Associated Press that Trump's tweets were making trouble in the region.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that the North was "looking for trouble" and if China didn't do its part to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, the U.S. could handle it alone.

Han said: "We are comparing Trump's policy toward the DPRK with the former administrations and we have concluded that it's becoming more vicious and more aggressive." The country's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

But Han said it was prepared for provocative acts. "Whatever comes from U.S. politicians, if their words are designed to overthrow the DPRK system and government, we will categorically reject them."

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12:20 p.m.

North Korea's vice foreign minister says, "We will go to war" if the U.S. chooses to provoke it.

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol spoke to The Associated Press in an exclusive interview in Pyongyang on Friday. He said the United States and President Donald Trump were making trouble in the region, citing Trump's tweets and the U.S. for moving an aircraft carrier into the region and for participating in its largest-ever joint military exercises with South Korea.

Han said that in the face of such actions, North Korea "will go to war if they choose." And it will continue developing its nuclear program and conduct its next nuclear test whenever its leaders see fit.

Han said: "We certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike."

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12:15 p.m.

North Korea's vice foreign minister says it is not his own country but the United States and President Donald Trump who are "making trouble."

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol made the comments in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang on Friday.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that North Korea was "looking for trouble" and added that if China doesn't do its part to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, the U.S. can handle it.

Han cited Trump's tweets as problematic, as well as the U.S. military's participation in exercises with South Korea and an aircraft carrier's move to the region.

"Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words. .... It's not the DPRK but the US and Trump that makes trouble."

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11:45 a.m.

North Korea's vice foreign minister says it will conduct its next nuclear test whenever its supreme headquarters sees fit.

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol made the comments in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang on Friday. He also said the situation on the Korean Peninsula was in a "vicious cycle" as tensions with the U.S. and its allies deepen.

Outside experts say the North could conduct its sixth nuclear test at virtually anytime. Meanwhile, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the region and is conducting its biggest ever joint military exercises with South Korea.

Han told AP that Pyongyang won't "keep its arms crossed" in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike.

Many experts believe North Korea could have a viable nuclear warhead and a ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland within the next few years.

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11:30 a.m.

North Korea's vice foreign minister says the situation on the Korean Peninsula is now in a "vicious cycle."

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol made the comments in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang on Friday.

Tensions are deepening as the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to waters off the peninsula and is conducting its biggest-ever joint military exercises with South Korea. Pyongyang, meanwhile, recently launched a ballistic missile and some experts say it could conduct another nuclear test at virtually anytime.

President Donald Trump upped the ante in a war of words with Pyongyang in a tweet on Tuesday that said the North is "looking for trouble."