Tillerson says United States missile strikes carry message for others

President Donald Trump listens as Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, now the president's national security adviser, talks at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla, Feb. 20, 2017.

The US missile strike on Syria contained a clear message for North Korea and its main ally China, but not one strong enough to push Pyongyang off its nuclear weapons path, analysts said on Saturday.

North Korea, which conducted two nuclear explosions and test-fired more than 20 ballistic missiles a year ago alone, will be a major topic when Trump holds his first face-to-face meeting with Xi at the US president's Mar-a-Lago retreat.

Trump carried out cruise missile strikes against a Syrian airbase Thursday in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack, allegedly the handiwork of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test on April 5, shortly before Xi and Trump met. Kim has said previously his regime is close to developing a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.

The country on Saturday decried the US military strike against an air base in western Syria, saying the "unforgivable" attack justified North Korea's growing nuclear weapons program.

The ministry separately said Sunday that China's special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei will visit South Korea this week to discuss the North Korean nuke issue in light of the recent U.S.

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Tensions have been even higher than usual over the past few weeks because annual war games between the USA and South Korean militaries are underway. -South Korean joint military exercises.

A White House official, who briefed reporters on Tuesday about the upcoming two-day meeting, said North Korea is "a matter of urgent interest" for Trump, and Washington feels that "the clock is very, very quickly running out".

Kim Jong-un has said North Korea is on the "brink of war" with America in response to growing tensions between the two countries.

Trump has recently threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang if Beijing fails to help curb its neighbor's nuclear weapons program.

The Senate's No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, says Trump's move sends a strong message to rogue nations, and agrees that the US needs a broader strategy.

The response by North Korea's foreign ministry, carried by the official KCNA news agency, was the first since United States warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of missiles at a Syrian air base which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack earlier in the week.

  • Sonia Alvarado