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N. Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of Trump-Xi meeting

11 April 2017

And now China, left shocked by the air strikes, has deployed medical and backup units from the People's Liberation Army forces to the Yalu River, Korea's Chosun.com reported.

China is North Korea's main diplomatic and economic ally.

As a US Navy strike group headed toward the Korean Peninsula, Tillerson said China agrees that action is necessary to address North Korea's nuclear arsenal, following last week's meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Speculation of an imminent nuclear test is brewing as North Korea marks major anniversaries this month, including the 105th birthday of its founding leader, which is usually celebrated with a demonstration of military might.

Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Honolulu, said he was expecting North Korea would do something to coincide with the Trump-Xi summit, perhaps conduct a nuclear test.

In March, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the strategy of patience with North Korea was over.

He added however that Beijing had indicated a willingness to act on the issue.

"The clock has now run out, and all options are on the table", one of the officials said in a CNN report.

The meeting between Xi and Trump came on the heels of yet another missile test by the North, which fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday.

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Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, directed the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying ships, including two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser, to sail north to the Western Pacific from Singapore on Saturday, instead of heading for Australia as originally scheduled. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that his country is in the final stage of conducting a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could potentially reach the US mainland.

"From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well", the group's joint command centre said.

While the Chinese regime traditionally condemns unilateral military action, particular in the case of its sister communist North Korea, there is a possibility that Xi Jinping could actually tolerate a US move against Kim Jong Un, according to Zhang Tianliang, a commentator on contemporary Chinese political and social issues. The North quit the negotiations in 2009.

However there is growing concern in South Korea that the USA will actually launch a strike against a nuclear or missile facility in the North, if Pyongyang follows through with another provocative test.

Trump has previously threatened unilateral action against the reclusive state, a threat that appeared more palpable after Thursday's strike on a Syrian airfield following an apparent chemical attack.

"Both sides agreed that despite the global community's warnings, if North Korea makes strategic provocations such as a nuclear test or an ICBM launch, there should be strong additional measures in accordance with United Nations security council resolutions", Kim told reporters. He added that Trump had asked him to be "prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat to the American people and to our allies and partners in the region".

South Korea's Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said Monday that the repercussions of a potential military response were worrying. The two also did not discuss any possible strike against the North by the Trump administration, he said.

Is the North likely to do this?

"If it's a preventive strike or precision strike, there's a danger that this could expand into a broader regional conflict involving China or Japan".