North Korea’s leader appeared on Tuesday to back away from his threat to fire missiles towards Guam while he waits to see what the US does next as South Korea’s president said Seoul would seek to prevent war by all means and China reiterated calls for restraint on the Korean peninsula.
In his first public appearance in about two weeks, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected the command of the North’s army, examining a plan to fire four missiles to land near the US Pacific territory of Guam, the official KCNA said in a report.
“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,” the report said.
The DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In photos released with the KCNA report, Kim was seen holding a baton and pointing at a map showing a flight path for the missiles appearing to start from North Korea’s east coast, flying over Japan towards Guam. North Korea has often threatened to attack the United States and its bases and released similar photos in the past but never followed through.
Pyongyang’s plans to fire missiles near Guam prompted a surge in tensions in the region last week, with US President Donald Trump saying the US military was “locked and loaded” if North Korea acted unwisely.
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.
“The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means,” Moon said.
China also said it hoped all sides could put out the flames, not add oil to the fire, with their words and actions.
Speaking at a daily press briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged a peaceful resolution of the standoff.
Guam officials were “ecstatic” Tuesday.
“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.
Guam Homeland Security adviser George Charfauros dismissed reports that satellite images showed North Korea moving a missile into place for a possible launch, saying it was likely “just a ruse”.
“It is their Liberation Day… North Korea tends to use symbolism as part of their decision making,” he said after CNN reported on the US spy satellite pictures.
“We are almost ecstatic that Kim Jong Un has backed off,” he added.