Asia Pacific

North Korea's leader holds fire on Guam missile launch

Kim Jong-un said he will watch the actions of the US before deciding whether to launch missiles towards Guam.

North Korea's leader received a report from his army on plans to fire missiles towards Guam and said he will watch the actions of the US before making a decision to fire, North Korea's official news agency said on Tuesday.

Kim Jong-un ordered the army to be ready to launch should he make the decision for military action.

North Korea said last week it was finalising plans to launch four missiles into the waters near the US Pacific territory of Guam, and its army would report the attack plan to Kim and wait for his order.

Kim, who inspected the command of North Korea's army on Monday, examined the plan for a long time and discussed it with army officers, the official KCNA agency said.

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"He said that if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared," it said.

The DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea's threat to attack near Guam prompted a surge in tensions in the region last week, with US President Donald Trump warning he would unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea if it did so.

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Kim said the US should make the right choice "in order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean Peninsula".

The visit to the Korean People's Army Strategic Force marks Kim's first public appearance in about two weeks.

Trump spoke to Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, late on Monday to discuss North Korea.

"President Trump reaffirmed that the United States stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or actions taken by North Korea against the United States or its allies, South Korea and Japan," a White House statement said early Tuesday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday there would be no military action without Seoul's consent and his government would prevent war by all means.

"Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by South Korea and no one else can decide to take military action without the consent of South Korea," Moon said in a speech to commemorate the anniversary of the nation's liberation from Japanese military rule in 1945.

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"The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means," Moon said.

North Korea is angry about new UN sanctions over its expanding nuclear weapons and missile programme and annual military drills between the US and South Korea beginning later this month that North Korea condemns as invasion rehearsals.

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A Guam official said he was "ecstatic" as North Korea appeared to back away from its threat.

"There doesn't appear to be any indication, based on what we're hearing, that there will be any missiles attacking in the near future or in the distant future," Lieutenant-Governor Ray Tonorio said. 

Jim Mattis, US defence secretary, warned on Monday the US military would be prepared to intercept a missile fired by North Korea if it was headed to Guam.

Mattis said that the US military would know the trajectory of a missile fired by North Korea within moments and would "take it out" if it looked like it would hit the US Pacific territory.

"The bottom line is, we will defend the country from an attack. For us that is war," Mattis said.

Richard Broinowski, former Australian ambassador to Seoul, told Al Jazeera from Sydney on Tuesday that there was no real threat of war.

"Kim Jong-un is not stupid. He's led his country for a number of years now, and he's done well. There's a lot of bluster and hyperbole," he said. "On the part of the US, we have a president who is unschooled and unskilled in diplomacy. But he's surrounded by people who are."

He also said that the solution was direct talks without conditions between the US and North Korea.

"It's been tried before and it needs to be tried again," said Broinowski.

 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies