By Agence France Presse
China and Russia pushed Tuesday for talks to defuse the “confrontational spiral” between the US and North Korea after Kim Jong-Un stepped back from a planned missile strike near Guam.
The North Korean leader said he would wait and see how the United States behaved before deciding whether to execute the planned launch of four missiles over Japan towards the tiny US territory in the Pacific.
Some analysts suggested Kim was opening a possible path to de-escalating tensions, which spiked dramatically with recent bellicose exchanges between US President Donald Trump and Pyongyang.
The North’s official KCNA news agency said Kim was briefed on the “plan for an enveloping fire at Guam” during an inspection on Monday of the Strategic Force command in charge of the nuclear-armed state’s missile units.
But it said Kim would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before executing any order.
“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,” he added.
His remarks prompted joy in Guam, where officials described themselves as “almost ecstatic that Kim Jong-Un has backed off”.
China said Tuesday that the North Korean nuclear crisis had reached a “turning point” and it was time to enter peace talks.
Beijing, which is Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally, has repeatedly called on the United States and North Korea to tone down their rhetoric in recent days.
“We now hope that all the concerned parties, in what they say and what they do, can contribute to extinguishing the fire, rather than adding fuel to the fire,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday in a telephone conversation focused on “ways to get out of the confrontational spiral on the Korean peninsula”, according to the Russian foreign ministry.
A ministry statement said both countries had “stressed the lack of any alternative to a political and diplomatic resolution” and called for “all the sides involved — with the support of the global community — to move towards setting up dialogue”.
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.
The US has long maintained that the North must show some tangible commitment to denuclearization before official talks can begin — a pre-condition rejected by Pyongyang.