N Korea leader holds off on Guam threat

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 15 August 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reviewed plans to fire missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam but will hold off, state media said. Although prepared for "the enveloping fire at Guam", the North said it would watch what "the foolish Yankees" do before taking a decision.

Last week's threat against Guam escalated the sharp rhetoric being exchanged between the two sides. This latest report points to a pause in the increasingly bitter war of words.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in meanwhile has urged the US not to launch an attack on the Korean peninsula without its consent, saying "no one may decide to take military action without the consent" of the South.

The report on state news agency KCNA said Kim Jong-un "examined the plan for a long time" and discussed it with senior military officials. The commander of North Korea's strategic force was now merely waiting for orders "after rounding off the preparations for the enveloping fire at Guam".

But, crucially, the report also said that Mr Kim would watch the US before making any decision, signalling an apparent deceleration in the provocative rhetoric. Correspondents say that after days of menacing threats it might seem that Kim Jong-un could be in the mood to finally hit the pause button - but in a nation as secretive as North Korea, one can never be sure.

Analysts say it could simply mean Pyongyang is not fully ready to launch an attack on Guam, so it could just be buying more time.

What are North Korea's neighbours saying?

South Korea and China - North Korea's closest ally - have been urging calm and a renewed push for diplomatic resolutions. On Tuesday South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the US should not act unilaterally. The two countries' defence agreement states that they must "consult together" when either is threatened.

Questions are being raised about whether America would need South Korea's approval to strike back at North Korea if Guam was attacked. According to international law, and the military agreement between South Korea and the US, it does not. So why would President Moon say no military action could be taken without Seoul's "consent"?

Professor Hwee Rhak Park from Kookmin University says it might be a gesture towards liberals in South Korea - who are the president's main supporters - to show that the government is in control of the situation. South Korea is often criticised by its northern neighbour for being a puppet of the US, so this could also be a veiled message to America to tone down the rhetoric.

Whatever he means, the South Korean president's stance has been quite clear from the start. He wants a diplomatic resolution, and has reiterated that he's open to talks with Pyongyang. China's foreign ministry on Monday reiterated its "suspension for suspension proposal" where North Korea stops its missile tests in exchange for a freeze on military exercises by the US and South Korea.


N Korea leader holds off on Guam threat N Korea leader holds off on Guam threat Reviewed by Nene Sochi-Okereke on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 Rating: 5

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