(CNN)- US President Donald Trump said yesterday (April 27) not to discount the chance of a military conflict with North Korea.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” Trump told Reuters amid an ongoing standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
He said he would prefer, however, to avoid conflict and peaceably achieve a non-nuclear North Korea.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically, but it’s very difficult,” Trump said.
Trump had kind words for Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he had previously criticized for not doing enough on North Korea – for “trying very hard” to resolve the crisis.
“He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death,” Trump said in the interview. “I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a Fox News interview yesterday that the Chinese had told North Korea they would impose sanctions on the isolated nation if it carried out another nuclear test.
Trump’s comments come a day after his administration briefed nearly every US senator on the North Korea issue, a rare gathering of the entire Senate at the White House.
Some senators said they were reassured by the hour-long update – led by Trump’s national security advisers – but learned little new information from it.
North Korea has dominated much of Trump’s first 100 days in office, as Pyongyang paraded missiles and threatened US forces in the region.
Around four in 10 Americans see North Korea as an “immediate threat” to US security, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. Most Americans (67%) say they support using military troops to help defend South Korea should the North attack.
Yesterday a North Korean official told CNN the country’s nuclear tests would “never stop” as long as the US continued what they viewed as “acts of aggression.”
Russia calls for talks
Also speaking yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for calm in the region and urged the resumption of six-party talks.
The talks – between the US, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea – were an effort to prevent Pyongyang from advancing its nuclear program, but they broke down in 2008 and attempts to revive them have failed.
In the intervening years, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests, including a purported hydrogen bomb test.
“We call on all the countries involved in regional issues to refrain from military rhetoric and strive for calm and constructive dialogue. We see, as a common task, the early resumption of six-party talks,” Putin said, at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Top: US President Donald Trump warns a big conflict with North Korea is still possible. Photo: CNN
SOURCE: CNN written by James Griffiths with Eli Watkins contributing to this report.