North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un decided August 15 not to fire ballistic missiles at Guam, reserving the right to change his mind if “the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions,” according to North Korean state media.
Kim appears to be attempting to de-escalate tensions to prevent conflict between the US and North Korea. After the UN Security Council approved tougher sanctions against North Korea for its intercontinental ballistic missile tests, the North warned Aug. 9 that it was considering launching a salvo of ballistic missiles into waters around Guam in a show of force demonstrating an ability to surround the island with “enveloping fire.”
That same day, President Donald Trump stressed that North Korean threats will be met with “fire and fury like nothing the world has ever seen.” For a week, the two sides hurled threats and warnings at each other repeatedly, leading some observers to conclude that the two sides were close to nuclear war.
But, Kim blinked.
Kim, according to North Korean state media, told the North Korean strategic rocket force that he “would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees,” giving the US time to reassess the situation. “He said that he wants to advise the US to take into full account gains and losses with clear head whether the prevailing situation is more unfavorable for any party.”
“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 and show it through action,” North Korean state media explained August 15. “The US should stop at once arrogant provocations against the DPRK and unilateral demands and not provoke it any longer,” it added. North Korea often presents the cessation of hostilities against it as the terms for de-escalation.
While lowering his sword, the young North Korean dictator stressed that he may still carry out his plan if the US does not change its approach to his country.
Kim stated “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, warning the US that it should think reasonably and judge properly not to suffer shame that it is hit by the DPRK.”
Amid the bluster and threats, a norm for North Korea, it is quite clear Pyongyang is taking a step back from its initial warnings while maintaining the right to change course and follow through on the original plan if deemed necessary.
Kim, having reviewed the plans and decided against immediate action, may be signaling that he is open to a diplomatic resolution, which the Trump administration has been adamantly pursuing in hopes of avoiding a very costly military alternative.