Chile rejects U.S. request to cut ties with North Korea

SANTIAGO – Chile has rejected a U.S request to break off all diplomatic and commercial ties with North Korea that was made by Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to the South American nation.

Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz says “we have not contemplated” such a move.

“We respect the request from the United States, but Chile maintains relations,” the minister added.

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He noted that Chile has “strictly applied” all sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the U.N. Security Council and characterized the nations’ ties as “distant.”

Chile and North Korea do not maintain embassies in each other’s countries. The Chilean ambassador to China is in charge of any matters related to Pyongyang.

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Commercial trade between Chile and North Korea is just $27 million a year, about $25 million of which is Chilean imports from the Asian country.

Russia is warning that a military response to tensions on the Korean Peninsula will lead to a “colossal” tragedy.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that Moscow is calling on all parties to show restraint and prevent the situation from spinning out of control.

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She said at a briefing that “any attempt at military solution of the problem of the Korean Peninsula will lead to a tragedy on a colossal scale, huge casualties for all conflicting parties, humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe.”

The United States and North Korea are in a tense standoff sparked by Pyongyang’s recent missile tests and threats to fire them toward Guam.

A senior Chinese general has told the top U.S. military officer that military action should not be an option in addressing the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

China’s defense ministry said in a statement that Gen. Fan Changlong told U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford in a meeting Thursday that all sides should remain restrained and avoid words and actions that could escalate tensions.

Fan, the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, told Dunford that Beijing insists that “negotiations are the only effective option” to solve the issue.

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Last week, President Donald Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury” if challenged by North Korea.

The top U.S. military officer says the U.S. will not negotiate away its joint exercises with South Korea as long as the threat of an attack by North Korea exists.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters Thursday that he’s advised the U.S. leadership not to dial back on the exercises with South Korea.

Dunford says: “As long as the threat in North Korea exists we need to maintain a high state of readiness to respond to that threat.”

North Korea claims the annual drills, scheduled for later this month, are a prelude for an invasion.

Washington and Seoul say the exercises are defensive in nature and crucial to deterring North Korean aggression.