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Trump says 'major, major conflict' with North Korea possible

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said a "major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, while China said the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate out of control.

Mr Trump told Reuters on Thursday that he wanted to resolve the crisis peacefully, possibly through the use of new economic sanctions, although a military option was not off the table.

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea," Mr Trump said at the Oval Office.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there was a danger that the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate out of control. Mr Wang made the comments in a meeting with a Russian diplomat on Thursday at the United Nations, the ministry said in a statement.

China, the only major ally of North Korea, has been increasingly uncomfortable in recent months about its neighbour's pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in violation on UN resolutions.

The US has called on China to do more to rein in Pyongyang and Mr Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his efforts, calling him "a good man".

"I believe he is trying very hard. I know he would like to be able to do something. Perhaps it's possible that he can't. But I think he'd like to be able to do something," Mr Trump said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that China had asked North Korea not to conduct any more nuclear tests. Beijing had warned Pyongyang it would impose unilateral sanctions if it went ahead, he added.

"We were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own," Mr Tillerson said on Fox News, without specifying what sanctions he was referring to.

He did not say when China made the threat and there was no immediate confirmation from Beijing.

China banned imports of North Korean coal in February, cutting off its most important export, and Chinese media this month raised the possibility of restricting oil shipments to the North if it unleashed more provocations.

Asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, Mr Trump said he was operating from the assumption that he is rational.

He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age. "As to whether or not he's rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he's rational," he said. - REUTERS

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