Russia, China both warning North Korea to back off confrontation with U.S., but Pyongyang isn’t listening

The leader of North Korea is being warned again – this time by Russia – that it needs to back down from its provocative, belligerent posture with the United States while there is still time to do so.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following talks on Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, warned that the situation has “seriously deteriorated” – diplomatic speak for “we’re reaching a point of no return” – which is precisely what the Chinese said earlier this week.

“We call on all states involved in the region’s affairs to refrain from military rhetoric and seek peaceful, constructive dialogue,” said Putin and Abe in a joint statement after their meeting, Bloomberg News reports.

The two men met initially to discuss a 70-year dispute over four islands that the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War II. But much of the three-hour discussion focused instead on North Korea.

A day earlier, Russia warned that the Korean peninsula stood “on the brink of war,” which, in diplomatic talk, signals just how serious the situation actually is. (Related: Read Is Iran Next? Trump Proclaims Tehran Has Broken “Spirit” Of Dangerous Nuclear Deal Negotiated By Obama.)

While Putin called for a resumption of the six-party talks involving Russia, North and South Korea, the United States, Japan and China, U.S. diplomats and President Donald J. Trump have all signaled that past negotiations have produced nothing and that future talks were not liable to produce the solution Washington wants: Full stoppage of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his growing concern about potential conflict in his country’s back yard, telling Trump during a phone call he was “increasingly worried” and that all sides should show restraint. At the same time, he criticized North Korea’s “continued belligerence,” which he said is “destabilizing the Korean peninsula.”

It’s understandable that neither China nor Russia are keen to see the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea escalate into an actual shooting war. Moscow and Beijing both believe massive destruction of North Korean forces and infrastructure will trigger a mass exodus of refugees out of North Korea and into their countries, and as such, both countries have deployed military units to their respective border regions to deal with it.

However thus far, even China – North Korea’s sole major ally, with which it conducts 90 percent of its trade – can’t even rein in the Kim regime, and has told Trump as much.

But that said, the Trump administration appears to be preparing for just that eventuality. Consider:

— The president has ordered a potent aircraft carrier strike force led by the USS Carl Vinson to waters off the Korean peninsula. There, the flotilla will be joined by Japan Maritime Self Defense Force warships and additional combat vessels from South Korea.

— In addition to the fleet, the USS Michigan, an Ohio-class vessel carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, was seen docking at a South Korean port earlier this week, and is expected to join the Carl Vinson battle group.

— The Trump administration’s top defense, intelligence and national security officials gave a “sober, serious” briefing to the entire U.S. Senate on Thursday, a very unusual occurrence in which attendees were told the North Korean threat is “urgent.”

— Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have all noted that negotiations with North Korea have been fruitless, that new talks aren’t a priority and that U.S. strikes have not been ruled out.

— Continued efforts by leaders in Moscow and Beijing to convince North Korea to at least back off its bellicose rhetoric and threats to conduct a sixth nuclear test indicate that both those capitals believe a conflict may be imminent. The fact that neither Putin nor Xi are criticizing Washington instead of Pyongyang is also noteworthy.

— A missile defense system, THAAD, has been set up in South Korea. (Related: Read Top U.S. admiral calls for missile intercepters in Hawaii; some ‘weapons’ carried in NK military parade were ‘fake’.)

— Trump has said he won’t allow the North to develop an ICBM capable of hitting U.S. territory, a point approvingly backed up by U.S Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent Trump critic, on Wednesday.

The Carl Vinson strike group is scheduled to arrive in waters near the Korean peninsula this weekend. At that point the Trump administration will have all the pieces in place for a preemptive strike – sea, air and ground forces – should the president and Congress decide one is necessary.

Keep up with this story as it develops at

J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.

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