(CNN)US President Donald Trump called the leader of China and spoke with the governor of Guam on Friday amid mounting tensions with North Korea. Trump also said he is considering “very strong” new sanctions against Pyongyang.
Japan, meanwhile, deployed the PAC-3 land-based missile interception system to four different locations.
Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo, on the US territory in an area of the Pacific that North Korea has threatened to strike with missiles, said he spoke with Trump and chief of staff John Kelly, and he posted audio of the call on Facebook.
“Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe,” Calvo wrote. “In the President’s words they are behind us ‘1,000 percent.’ As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe.”
North Korea’s estimated splashdown of missiles aimed toward Guam would place them just outside Guam’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters. Guam’s Homeland Security adviser, George Charfauros, said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.
In Japan, the defense ministry deployed the missile interception system to military bases in four prefectures, video from the four locations showed Saturday.
The prefectures sit in a line between North Korea and Guam. Pyongyang identified three of the prefectures as the regions over which its missiles would fly on the way toward the US territory.
“This man will not get away with what he is doing,” Trump told reporters. “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that is an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
Trump calls China
Trump on Friday night informed Chinese President Xi Jinping that he plans to direct his administration on Monday to investigate Chinese trade practices, a senior administration official told CNN.
Trump plans to direct US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday to launch an investigation into alleged Chinese violations of US intellectual property rights, the senior official said. The move could lay the groundwork for Trump to impose tariffs against Chinese imports, which would mark a significant escalation in Trump’s efforts to reverse the US’s trade deficit with China.
Trump’s call with Xi and his plans to open the broad trade investigation come amid the escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Trump has urged the Chinese government to exert more pressure on the North Korean regime, with little success.
The decision will not only take action against alleged Chinese violations of US companies’ intellectual property rights, but also could be perceived as an attempt by the US government to crank up the pressure on China to leverage its influence in tempering North Korea’s increasingly aggressive posture.
“The United States government can, and does, work with countries to address serious concerns such as North Korea while also pursuing measures to address economic concerns, such as the theft of U.S. intellectual property,” an NSC official said.
It was not immediately clear how China would react to the move.
Trump, who has been at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, plans to return to Washington on Monday to announce the trade investigation.
The trade investigation is expected to be only one part of a multi-pronged push by the Trump administration to counter Chinese trade abuses, which Trump frequently railed against as a candidate. The administration has been eyeing other moves to rebalance the US-China trading relationship.
Trump planned to launch the trade investigation, authorized under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, last week, but delayed the move in favor of securing China’s support for a UN security resolution imposing fresh sanctions on the North Korean regime, the senior administration official said.
North Korea threats
Saber-rattling from the rogue nation has dominated Trump’s 17-day working vacation in New Jersey. When asked about the ratcheted-up rhetoric in recent weeks between the US and North Korea, Trump said there are good options on the table for dealing with the tensions, but also some bad ones.
“Hopefully it will all work out,” Trump said before the call with Xi. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump, that I can tell you. But this has been going on for many years. Would have been a lot easier to solve this years ago, before they were in the position they are in.
“But we will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen and we also could have a bad solution.”
Trump called Xi after meeting with US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Bedminster.
Earlier in the day, Trump issued a warning to North Korea.
“I hope they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said. And what I said is what I mean,” Trump said, adding that the significance of his words was “pretty obvious” and his administration is looking “very carefully” at possible future actions against North Korea.
Foreign policy and national security experts have raised questions about Trump’s threatening response to North Korea, noting that past administrations have tried to avoid the President commenting on North Korea’s threats in order to avoid giving them credibility.
Trump: Kim Jong Un will regret threats on US
Trump dismissed the criticism Friday, saying the only reason they are critical of his response is “because it’s me.”
“If somebody else uttered the exact same words that I uttered they would say what a great statement, what a wonderful statement,” Trump said, adding that there are “tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I am saying.”
Neighboring powers urge restraint
Trump’s rhetoric and North Korea’s response have unsettled powers in the Asia-Pacific region, with some scrambling to respond to the escalation of tensions.
“Kim Jong Un freezes any nuclear tests and any missile launches — we mean ballistic missiles — and the US and South Korea freeze large-scale military exercises,” Lavrov said, adding that North Korea regularly uses the drills to justify its missile tests and nuclear program.
Other foreign leaders raised questions about whether there was a military option in North Korea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that “an escalation of rhetoric will not contribute to a solution” of the conflict in North Korea.
“I do not see a military solution to this conflict,” she added.
Trump praised Merkel on Friday as a “very good person,” but said she was speaking for Germany, not the United States.