Tensions between the Wester-backed South Korea and the controversial North Korea eased slightly on Monday as President Moon Jae-in said resolving Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions must be done peacefully and US officials played down the risk of an imminent war.
“There must be no more war on the Korean peninsula. Whatever ups and downs we face, the North Korean nuclear situation must be resolved peacefully,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in told a regular meeting with senior aides and advisers.
“I am certain the United States will respond to the current situation calmly and responsibly in a stance that is equal to ours,” he said.
Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump warned at the weekend that the US military was “locked and loaded” if North Korea acted unwisely after threatening last week to land missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam.
US Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might conduct another missile test but talk of being on the cusp of a nuclear war was overstating the risk.
“I’ve seen no intelligence that would indicate that we’re in that place today,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday”.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a commentary in the Wall Street Journal the United States was adopting a policy of “strategic accountability” towards North Korea, and was applying diplomatic and economic pressure “to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a dismantling of the regime’s ballistic-missile programs”.
“While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action, it is backed by military options,” they said.
World stocks rallied as investors took heart from the less bellicose rhetoric.
However, North Korea reiterated its threats, with its official KCNA news agency saying “war cannot be blocked by any power if sparks fly due to a small, random incident that was unintentional”.
“Any second Korean War would have no choice but to spread into a nuclear war,” it said in a commentary.