Confrontation with North Korea not imminent, say US officials

Claudine Rigal
Août 18, 2017

North Korea has been issuing hyperbolic threats for decades, such as turning Seoul into a "sea of fire" - one recent academic analysis of its language was titled "Turning it up to Eleven".

After President Donald Trump warned the United States would unleash "fire and fury" if Kim Jong-un's regime continued to threaten nuclear war, North Korea outlined a plan to fire four intermediate-range ballistic missiles to land near Guam.

Relations between Washington and Pyongyang have been tense for months, in the wake of the North's repeated missile tests.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said his nation will do "all it can" to prevent violence from breaking out on the Korean Peninsula.

State-run China Central Television quoted Xi as telling Trump the "relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tension on the Korean Peninsula".

Alluding to the threats against Guam, Trump said if North Korea took any steps to even think about an attack, it would have reason to be nervous. He said the U.S.

But today is a national holiday in North Korea - and the regime has often used such occasions for big weapons tests.

The tough talk capped a week in which long-standing tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over.

The tit-for-tat war of words began this week after Pyongyang threatened to retaliate against Washington for new United Nations sanctions against the regime. Trump, responding to a report that US intelligence indicates Pyongyang can now put a nuclear warhead on its long-range missiles, vowed to rain down "fire and fury" if challenged.

According to KCNA, it is planned to launch four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which are supposed to fly some 3,400 kilometers over Japan's Prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi to drop into water some 30-40 kilometers off Guam.

So what is Donald Trump talking about? A miscalculation on either side could lead to military confrontation. The ship-based defenses are created to kill a missile that's in midflight, while the ground-based ones take out whatever missiles make it through and are in the final stage.

According to the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper, the tremors were centred on North Hwanghae Province.

There have been no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as has been the case during previous crises. Still, he declined to say whether the considering a pre-emptive military strike, arguing that his administration never discusses such deliberations publicly.

Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run August 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan's government considers North Korea's plans of a preemptive missile strike as a provocation.

Trump, the Republican billionaire, has progressively ramped up the tone throughout the week and on Friday declared that the USA military is "locked and loaded" to take action against North Korea.

Kim's father and predecessor Kim Jong-Il had groomed his son to take his place at the top of Pyongyang's political pyramid for years before his death in 2011.

Guam, a Pacific island which is home to two United States military bases, strategic bombers and about 163,000 people.

When North Korea makes a threat, the government in Seoul usually vents its anger while South Koreans mostly shrug off what can seem like a daily barrage of hostility.

Trump also brushed away calls for caution from other world leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel. "Regardless of whatever twist and turns we could experience, the North Korean nuclear program should absolutely be solved peacefully, and the (South Korean) government and the USA government don't have a different position on this".

"I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer", Merkel added.

John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul said Kim was "de-escalating, putting Guam plan on ice" - at least for now. "Perhaps she is referring to Germany".

Smith: Look, you want me to tell everyone, "It's all good".

By evening, he seemed to have mellowed a bit.

"My critics are only saying that because it's me", Trump said. "Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump".

"Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe", Calvo wrote on Facebook.

Lemire reported from Bedminster, New Jersey. "We are with you a thousand per cent".

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