Trump: 'Major, major' conflict with North Korea possible

President Trump said Thursday that a "major, major" conflict is possible between the U.S. and North Korea amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang's developing nuclear and missile program.

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely," Trump told Reuters.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," he added.

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Tensions rose between the U.S. and North Korea earlier this month when the U.S. announced that it would send a Navy strike group into the west Pacific near the Korean Peninsula amid increasing concern over the reclusive nation's nuclear weapons program. 

North Korea quickly denounced the naval movement as an act of aggression and threatened a nuclear strike on the U.S. if provoked. Since then, the two countries have hurled sweeping declarations at each other over North Korea's nuclear capabilities, while military signals have put U.S. allies in the region on high alert. 

In the interview, Trump also lauded Chinese President Xi Jinping for his efforts to rein in North Korea. Trump has spoken highly of his Chinese counterpart since hosting him at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida earlier this month.

"I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death," Trump said. "He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well."