North Korea backs off Guam missile threat

"[The North Koreans] were not going to strike first because they know the risks if they did launch some kind of missile attack", Pollack said, adding that those risks include Trump deciding to put North Korea "out of business".

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed his military's plans to rain "an enveloping fire" around the USA territory of Guam - but opted not to fire missiles at this time, according to state media.

The state-run Global Times said on Tuesday that Seoul should play a buffer between the United States and North Korea to prevent a head-on confrontation.

The report said Kim would continue to observe "the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees" before making a final decision. "If they do that, it's game on", he said.

"In order to defuse the tensions and prevent the unsafe military conflict on the Korean peninsula, it is necessary for the USA to make a proper option first", he added.

The United States and South Korea have prepared for more joint military drills, which has infuriated the North, and experts warned Pyongyang could still go ahead with a provocative plan.

Despite this, North Korea is embracing the harsh rhetoric that's defined the regime's foreign policy since its first successful nuclear test in 2006.

Sun said that while Trump had degraded himself and the U.S. by engaging in North Korea-like rhetoric, and risked his credibility by issuing threats of his own on which he did not follow through, she thought his bluster had its biggest impact on domestic U.S. politics and not on the military situation in the Koreas.

"This is a direct invitation to talk reciprocal constraints on exercises and missile launches", said Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Mid-August came, Kim received the plan, but has yet to act on it.

"We are not out of the woods".

U.S. remains poised to attack North Korea
Tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops are expected to take part in training for a war with North Korea. These comments come following a week of verbal escalation between the United States and North Korea.

The United States and South Korea insist their annual joint exercises are purely defensive, and can not be linked to the North's missile programme, which violates a host of UN resolutions.

The comments, while typically belligerent, are significant because they also appeared to signal a path to defuse a deepening crisis with Washington over a weapons program that is seen as nearing the ability to accurately send a nuclear missile to the USA mainland.

Tensions have been mounting since the North tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, which appeared to bring much of the USA within range.

Meanwhile, the European Union's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said the EU would intensify its diplomatic efforts with North Korea, the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

"The bottom line is, we will defend the country from an attack; for us (U.S. military) that is war", Mattis said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington was "interested in finding ways to get to dialogue" but stressed the ball was in Kim's court.

Importantly, North Korea has shown it has some understanding of Trump. "We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang".

This might be hard as the United States and its ally South Korea plan next week to start annual defensive military drills that the North claims are preparation for invasion.

The officials in charge of North Korea's missile programme could complete their preparations by next week and would then wait for the 33-year-old leader to decide what to do next.

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