Home GRASP GRASP/Korea Latest crisis on North Korea eases as both sides pull back —...

Latest crisis on North Korea eases as both sides pull back — for now

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North Korea’s government and the Trump administration both eased back Tuesday after a war of words raised nuclear fears.
The latest nuclear crisis with North Korea appeared to ease Tuesday as Pyongyang and Washington sought to lower tension before their increasingly heated threats could spiral into war.
The question is what happens next in the world’s most dangerous hot spot.
U. S. and South Korean military forces are gearing up to start joint large-scale air, land and sea maneuvers Monday in South Korea. The annual exercises, dubbed Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, normally involve 17,500 U. S. troops and last for 10 days.
Kim Jong Un ’s government has always denounced the joint exercises as a provocative ruse designed to hide a U. S. invasion. North Korea expressed outrage again Tuesday, but in the kind of furious rhetoric that in some ways signaled a return to what passes for normality.
If the U. S. carries out its “planned fire of power demonstration, ” North Korea’s official news agency warned, North Korean “artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks.”
In contrast, North Korea had unveiled a highly specific plan last week to fire four midrange ballistic missiles over several Japanese islands and into international waters about 20 miles off Guam, a U. S. territory in the Pacific that hosts two major U. S. military bases.
On Tuesday, the state news agency said Kim had toured the command post of the country’s strategic missile force, and then quoted him saying he would “watch a little more” before firing anything toward Guam, language that helped defuse the standoff.
China repeated its calls Tuesday for the U. S. and South Korea to suspend the military exercises as a show of good faith to give diplomatic breathing room to restart the multilateral talks with North Korea that collapsed in 2008.
The Trump administration has rejected that appeal in the past, and the Pentagon gave no indication Tuesday that it was changing its plans even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted he was looking for a way to restart negotiations.
“We continue to be interested in finding a way to get to a dialogue, ” Tillerson said.
Frank Aum, a former Pentagon advisor on North Korea who contributes to 38 North, an analysis website that focuses on the country, said the crisis could reignite quickly because the “underlying sources of tension are still there.”
“There have always been issues between North Korea and the United States, but we’ ve shown restraint, ” he said.

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