NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said Tuesday he would hold off on a planned missile strike near Guam, but warned the highly provocative move would go ahead in the event of further “reckless actions” by Washington.
Some analysts suggested Kim’s comments opened a possible path to de-escalating a growing crisis fuelled by bellicose words between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership, reported Agence France-Presse.
Their recent exchanges were focused on a North Korean threat to fire a volley of four missiles over Japan towards the US territory of Guam, which hosts a number of strategic military bases.
The North’s official KCNA news agency said Kim was briefed on the “plan for an enveloping fire at Guam” during an inspection on Monday of the Strategic Force command in charge of the nuclear-armed state’s missile units.
But Kim said he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before executing any order.
If they “persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula,” then North Korea would take action “as already declared,” he was quoted as saying.
“In order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean peninsula, it is necessary for the US to make a proper option first,” he added.
China said Tuesday that the North Korean nuclear crisis had reached a “turning point” and it was time to enter peace talks.
Beijing, which is Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally, has repeatedly called on the United States and North Korea to tone down their rhetoric in recent days.
“We now hope that all the concerned parties, in what they say and what they do, can contribute to extinguishing the fire (of the tense situation), rather than adding fuel to the fire,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
The remarks from Pyongyang would appear to bring into play the large-scale military exercises held every year by South Korea and the United States that are expected to kick off later this month.
The North has always denounced the drills as provocative rehearsals for invasion and has in the past offered a moratorium on further nuclear and missile testing in exchange for their cancellation — a trade-off promoted by Beijing, but repeatedly rejected by Washington and Seoul.
Some analysts said Kim was seeking a similar quid-pro-quo this time around, using the Guam missile threat as leverage.
“This is a direct invitation to talk reciprocal constraints on exercises and missile launches,” said Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul said Kim was “de-escalating, putting Guam plan on ice” — at least for now.