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North Korea nuclear crisis

Trump praises North Korea’s Kim Jong-un for ‘wise’ decision not to attack US territory of Guam

The US president’s comment came after Kim said he would ‘watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees’ before executing any order

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 1:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 3:34am

US President Donald Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday for apparently making a “wise and well-reasoned” decision to back away from his plan to strike the US Pacific island territory of Guam, a sign that Washington and Pyongyang intend to soften their week-long military threats against each other.

In a Twitter message, Trump said:

The White House could not be immediately reached for comment about whether the president made that judgment after an intelligence briefing.

The comment came two days after Kim Jong-un reviewed the Guam strike plan and said he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before executing any order, the North Korean state news agency KCNA reported on Monday.

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“In order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean peninsula, it is necessary for the US to make a proper option first,” Kim added, calling the US and South Korea’s upcoming joint military exercise, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, a provocative action from Pyongyang’s standpoint.

There is no indication that the US would cancel or delay the schedule of the annual US-South Korean military exercise so far. Now in its third year, it is expected to start on August 21 as planned, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a US Defence Department spokesman, was quoted as saying by Reuters last week.

Heather Nauert, a US State Department spokeswoman, also told reporters on Tuesday that the two sides are “allowed to do” the military exercises under their mutual defence treaty. “We’re allowed to do it with our ally, South Korea. We will continue to do that and that’s just not going to change,” Nauert said.

Nauert said there is “no equivalency” between North Korea’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests, nuclear testing and the legal US-South Korea joint military exercises.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Security and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, said both the US and North Korea have an interest in avoiding conflict, and “I believe Kim Jong-un may have recognised that further escalation could be dangerous.”

“If he [Kim] is signalling that the only way to de-escalate tensions is for the US to suspend its military exercises, then I am pessimistic,” Glaser said. “Military drills are imperative for preparedness and the maintenance of deterrence.”

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China, meanwhile, has continued to call on the parties to show restraint. Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said on Monday the situation on the Korean Peninsula is “nearing either the critical point of crisis or the turning point with a crying need for a decision to return to peace talks”.

“Various parties should exercise restraint, seize the opportunity, take correct actions that are conducive to easing the tensions,” she said.

In Beijing, the top US general demanded that China increase pressure on North Korea. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo, said on Tuesday that if preferred peaceful diplomatic and economic options fail, the US is resolved to use the full range of military capabilities to defend its allies in South Korea and Japan, as well as the US homeland.