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Diplomats are racing to find a peaceful solution within days to the North Korea crisis as America prepares to protect itself against an attack from the rogue state, a Cabinet minister said today.
The Defence Secretary spoke to his US counterpart James Mattis yesterday, while Theresa May also held talks with Donald Trump.
Amid fears that North Korea could launch another provocative missile on its anniversary on Saturday, Sir Michael said: “It’s on the North Korean regime that we now need to exert the maximum pressure if we are to avoid this intensifying into any kind of conflict.
“The United States is perfectly entitled to make all the preparations that it needs to protect its people, its bases, its own homeland and they are clearly doing that at the moment.”
America, Britain and other allies are determined to “absolutely exhaust every possible diplomatic avenue” to solve the escalating crisis, he added.
But he also signalled the urgency of reaching a deal with China and Russia and other countries at crunch talks, including on sanctions, at the United Nations in New York in coming days.
“Above all it means putting more pressure on China to deal with its neighbour,” he explained.
“Our diplomats are working flat out in New York and … the Foreign Secretary and I are talking to our counterparts, leaving no stone unturned now in the next few days to make sure that we can reach some kind of diplomatic resolution.”
However, Russian president Vladimir Putin called for talks with Kim Jong-Un’s North Korean regime, stressing that sanctions were not a solution.
He has called them “useless”, saying North Korea would rather “eat grass” than give up its nuclear programme.
After meeting his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of an economic summit in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, Mr Putin denounced Pyongyang’s sixth and largest nuclear bomb test on Sunday as a “crude violation” of UN Security Council resolutions. “At the same time, it is clear that it is impossible to resolve the problem of the Korean peninsula only by sanctions and pressure,” he added.
Mr Moon has asked the United Nations to consider tough new sanctions on North Korea and called for oil supplies to the North to be cut and asked Mr Putin to cooperate.
Earlier this week, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused the North Korean leader of “begging for war” with his nuclear bomb and missile tests. She urged the 15-member Security Council to impose the “strongest possible” sanctions to deter him and shut down his trading partners. .
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