Kim Jong Un backs down as US warns: 'This could escalate into war very quickly'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown plans on a proposed military strike on Guam (Reuters)

Kim Jong-un has softened his stance in the war of words with America after backing down from a military strike on Guam.

The North Korean leader has reportedly decided against attacking the U.S. territory after being briefed on his country’s military plans to launch missiles.

The development comes after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that if the hermit kingdom were to fire a missile at the United States, the situation could escalate into war.

“If they fire at the United States, it could escalate into war very quickly,” Mattis told reporters.

Mattis said the United States would know the trajectory of a North Korean missile “within moments” and if a missile is assessed to be hitting Guam they would “take it out.”

During an inspection of the army’s strategic forces, Kim praised the military for drawing up a “close and careful plan”, just days after the Korean People’s Army announced it is preparing to create “enveloping fire” near the US military hub in the Pacific.

Kim Jong Un has not ruled out future missile launches (Reuters)

Despite ruling out a strike for now, Kim said he would watch the “foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” a little more before deciding whether to give the order for the missile test.

He said North Korea will conduct the planned missile launches if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity” and that the U.S. should “think reasonably and judge property” to avoid shame.

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Kim Jong Un backs down as US warns: ‘This could escalate into war very quickly’

What was North Korea saying last week?

The Korean People’s Army’s strategic forces said last week it would finalise by mid-August a plan to fire four intermediate ballistic missiles near Guam, which is about 2,000 miles from Pyongyang, and send it to Kim for his approval.

It came after Donald Trump promised “fire and fury” if North Korea continued their threats against the United States.

He added: “He [Kim Jong Un] has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Pyongyang said they were “finalising plans” for a proposed attack, with the final decision resting with Kim Jong Un.

What was the US response to the North Korea threats?

The North Korean report came after U.S. defence secretary Jim Mattis said the US would take out any North Korean missile seen to be heading for American soil, and declared any such North Korean attack could lead to war.

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said during a visit to South Korea on Monday that the US wants to peacefully resolve the deepening stand-off with North Korea.

But it is also ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities in case of provocation, he said.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in said his country will do all they can to prevent a nuclear war (Rex)

What is the reaction from South Korea?

South Korean leader President Moon Jae-in said the nuclear crisis must “absolutely be solved peacefully” and warned that U.S. military action requires Seoul’s consent.

Mr Moon, a liberal who favours engagement with the North, delivered a nationally televised speech on Tuesday on the anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

US military planes are seen parked on the tarmac of Andersen Air Force base on the island of Guam (Reuters)

He said his South Korean government “will put everything on the line to prevent another war in the Korean Peninsula”.

The president said the “North Korean nuclear programme should absolutely be solved peacefully, and the (South Korean) government and the US government don’t have a different position on this”.

He said the conditions for dialogue could be created if North Korea stops nuclear and missile tests.

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