North Korea edged away from the brink of conflict with the United States, saying leader Kim Jong Un will watch "the foolish an stupid conduct of the Yankees" before deciding whether to approve plans to fire four missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam.
Kim was briefed on the missile plan Monday and said he would watch Washington’s actions “a little more,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
The statement followed a week of bellicose warnings from President Trump and his top military advisers that any provocative actions by North Korea would trigger a ferocious U.S. military response.
Kim said he will make an “important” decision if Washington continues its "extremely dangerous reckless actions,” Yonhap reported.
"In order to defuse the tension and prevent dangerous military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, it is necessary for the U.S. to make a proper option first and show it through action," he said.
Yonhap reported that Kim made the comments while inspecting the Strategic Force command, which last week threatened to launch the intermediate-range ballistic missiles toward the western Pacific island.
“This information at least gives us reason to believe that Kim Jong Un has kind of paused his intention of shooting anything in our direction," Guam's Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio told reporters at a press conference in Adelup on the west of the island Tuesday.
"So, we find the silver lining round the cloud and hope that that’s an indication that he’s pushing off his intentions of firing four missiles in Guam’s direction.”
"I am heartened by reports that North Korea has decided, for now, to walk back their threats of an imminent attack on or around Guam," said Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, who represents Guam in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“While I remain confident that our island is safe and well-protected, I hope that all parties will work to further de-escalate tensions and ensure stability in the region,” her statement said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Monday that "if they fire at the United States, it could escalate into war very quickly."
Mattis said the U.S. will know a missile’s trajectory “within moments” and "we will take it out" if it heads toward U.S. territory.
Earlier Monday, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the U.S. military’s most senior officer, warned on a visit to South Korea that the United States is ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities to defend itself and its allies against North Korea.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military options would be used if diplomatic and economic sanctions fail.
China, North Korea's most important ally, said Monday that it will stop importing North Korean goods including iron ore, coal and fish from midnight on Sept. 5. as part of U.N. sanctionsimposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile program.
The U.N. Security Council imposed increased sanctions on North Korea worth one-third of its annual $3 billion exports earlier this month.
President Trump warned last week that the U.S. military is "locked and loaded" should North Korea "act unwisely." National security adviser H.R. McMaster said the president’s statement was an effort to maintain peace, not provoke war.
North and South Korea are celebrating Liberation Day on Tuesday, marking the anniversary of the victory over Japan in World War II and the creation of the two independent Korean governments in 1948.
Contributing: Pacific (Guam) Daily News
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