North Korea tensions ease as Kim Jong-un backs down on missile threat

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The tense stand-off between North Korea and the United States eased today as Kim Jong-un appeared to back off over his threat to target missiles at waters near Guam.

But the rogue regime’s leader warned he could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions”.

Pyongyang’s state media reported that while Kim had decided against firing four missiles at the US territory in the Pacific Ocean for now, the launch could still happen at any time.

It would, said Kim, be a “most delightful historic moment” and “wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks”.

Despite the colourful language, the move will help dial back tensions in the region, which rose last week with a war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leadership.

Mr Trump warned that the US military was “locked and loaded” and could launch a “fire and fury” strike against North Korea.

Pyongyang threatened to target Guam in “enveloping fire” with a provocative ballistic missile attack.

Concern in Washington had been growing that North Korea would go ahead with the threat after withdrawing its ambassadors from China, Russia and the US.

Kim had also remained out of sight recently. In the past, his disappearance from public view has been followed by a missile test. However, he visited his ballistic missile command yesterday.

The development will be seen by Trump supporters as a victory for the president’s tough stance and his uncompromising statements amid fears that Kim may be less than a year away from developing a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the US.

Guam governor Eddie Calvo said he was grateful that Mr Trump took a strong stand against North Korea.

“Everyone who grew up in the school-yard in elementary school, we understand a bully,” Mr Calvo said yesterday. “Kim Jong-un is a bully with some very strong weapons, a bully has to be countered very strongly. Sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose.”

China has been putting heavy pressure on Pyongyang to reduce its threats.

In line with new UN sanctions, Beijing put more pressure on its trading partner to behave yesterday by banning a number of North Korean products, including the purchase of coal, iron, lead and seafood. As well as being its only ally, China buys 90 per cent of North Korea’s exports.

Today, South Korean president Moon Jae-in said there would be no military action without Seoul’s consent.

“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,” he insisted. “The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means.”  

China is urging South Korea and America to call off a planned joint military drill next week that is likely to irritate the North.

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