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Xi said to tell Trump to pull back bravado

N. Korea says millions keen to fight; Japan sets up shield

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Photographs by AP/ALEX BRANDON

President Donald Trump listens to a question during a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017.

BEIJING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping urged President Donald Trump during a phone call Friday night to exercise restraint over tensions with North Korea, Chinese state media outlets reported.

After a week of threats and counterthreats between Washington and Pyongyang, Xi urged both sides not to do anything that would aggravate tensions, China's CGTN state television network reported.

But North Korea continued to fuel tension Saturday, with the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reporting that almost 3½ million people, including students and retired soldiers, have asked to join or rejoin the North Korean military to fight against the United States over the latest sanctions it encouraged through the U.N. Security Council.

"All the people are rising up across the country to retaliate against the U.S. thousands of times," said the newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party. The report was likely bluster rather than fact, but it showed that the North Korean regime is not backing down in the face of Trump's threats.

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Meanwhile, Japan finished installing surface-to-air missile interceptors in the western prefectures that North Korea said would be in the flight path of any missiles launched toward Guam, where North Korea is threatening an "enveloping strike."

The deployment of four Patriot interceptors in the Shimane, Ehime, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures began Friday and installation had been expected to be completed Saturday, a spokesman for Japan's Ministry of Defense said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told media outlets earlier on Saturday that he would "do his best" to protect the lives and property of the Japanese people.

In South Korea, the government began the environmental survey needed to complete the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system -- a sign that the liberal government is now trying to expedite the deployment.

In his phone call with Trump, Xi said China hoped the parties concerned would exercise restraint and refrain from taking any action that will aggravate tensions on the peninsula, according to CGTN. Dialogue, negotiations and a political settlement are the fundamental ways of solving the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue, Xi said during the call, which took place Saturday Beijing time.

"The Chinese leader expressed Beijing's willingness to maintain communication with the U.S. to appropriately resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue," the network reported.

Trump has pushed China to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons program that is nearing the capability of targeting the United States. China is the North's biggest economic partner and source of aid, but says it alone can't compel Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programs.

The White House said in a statement that Trump and Xi "agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior." It also said that the two "reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Trump, who is scheduled to visit China later this year, on Tuesday threatened to respond to further threats from North Korea by unleashing "fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Pyongyang in turn said it could strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the Western Pacific with ballistic missiles. In his latest salvos in the war of words, Trump said Friday that the U.S. military was "locked and loaded" and that North Korea would "truly regret it" if it attacked Guam.

NEW TALKS URGED

China has viewed the rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang with some alarm, and has repeatedly urged dialogue to lower tensions. Although China supported stiffer United Nations sanctions last weekend after repeated North Korean missile tests, Chinese officials also want a restart of six-party talks, which stalled in 2009. Those talks would involve North and South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

China argues that Washington's long-standing belligerence toward North Korea helps explain why the regime has chosen to develop a nuclear weapons program -- dodging its own responsibility for propping up the North Korean government.

Xi "stressed that China and the U.S. share the same interests on the denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula," CGTN said.

But China is deeply resistant to doing anything that could destabilize or topple the regime in Pyongyang. The Chinese government has worked to prevent a unified Korean state allied to the United States, going back to the 1950-53 Korean War that saw hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers die. China remains North Korea's major trading partner, providing the regime's economic lifeline.

In an editorial Friday, China's state-owned Global Times newspaper warned that China won't go to North Korea's aid if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation -- but that China would intervene if Washington strikes first.

"China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral," the Global Times wrote. "If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so."

As tension mounted last week, Japan prepared for the missile launches, which North Korea indicated could happen this month.

Two events could provide triggers. North Korea on Tuesday will celebrate "Liberation Day," marking Japan's defeat in World War II and the end of its colonization of the Korean Peninsula. Then the United States and South Korea on Aug. 21 will begin joint military exercises.

Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run until Aug. 31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. North Korea claims the exercises are a rehearsal for war, but Washington and Seoul say they are necessary to deter North Korean aggression.

GUAM TOURISM

In announcing that it might simultaneously fire four intermediate-range ballistic missiles over western Japan toward Guam, North Korea listed the prefectures of Hiroshima, Shimane and Kochi as on the flight path.

Japan's navy already has Aegis destroyers ready to shoot down any missiles flying over, but the air force on Saturday deployed Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, which have a range of about 12 miles, to the areas in case the missiles fall over Japan.

"North Korea says it will target Guam, but it is possible that the missiles will fail to follow their programmed trajectories due to an error," a government official said, according to the Asahi newspaper.

In a phone call made public Saturday, Trump told Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo that the threat by North Korea will boost Guam tourism "tenfold."

The recording was put on the Republican governor's Facebook page and other social media accounts.

Trump said: "I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they're talking about you." And when it comes to tourism, he added, "I can say this: You're going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money."

Efforts to reach the White House on Saturday for comment were not immediately successful.

Meanwhile, the South Korean government on Saturday began a formal environmental survey about the missile-defense system deployment, which has been controversial in the southern rural area where it is stationed.

Liberal President Moon Jae-in, elected in May, had vowed to conduct an environmental review of the deployment, which he had questioned while on the campaign trail. But the events of the past few weeks, especially North Korea's firing of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, have caused Moon to do an about-face.

Although the battery would not be able to shoot down long-range missiles, it is meant to protect South Korea from North Korean rockets aimed at the country.

Information for this article was contributed by Simon Denyer, Anna Fifield and Shirley Feng of The Washington Post; by Min Jeong Lee and Takashi Amano of Bloomberg News; by Eric Talmadge, Jonathan Lemire, Josh Lederman, Matthew Pennington and Lolita C. Baldor of The Associated Press; and by Mar-Vic Cagurangan and Glenn Thrush of The New York Times.

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Members of the Japanese military work on a Patriot missile-defense system Saturday in Konan in Kochi prefecture, one of four batteries just deployed i...

A Section on 08/13/2017

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