- KCNA/ via REUTERS
Kim Jong Un has backed off from North Korea’s threat to launch missiles at the US territory of Guam, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Citing North Korean state media, The Journal said the North Korean leader had been briefed by his military on a plan to launch missiles near Guam but decided against doing so.
North Korea on Tuesday celebrates Liberation Day, the anniversary of the withdrawal of Japanese occupying forces from the Korean Peninsula in 1945. North Korea frequently tests missiles or holds provocative events on holidays.
US satellites have reportedly spotted missile movements and some submarine activity in North Korea over the past few days, possible signs of a coming launch.
Kim first singled out Guam last week during an escalating public exchange of threats with President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, the North Korean military said it was preparing to provide Kim in mid-August with a plan to test missiles in the waters near the Pacific territory.
Experts on North Korea, however, told Business Insider they found it unlikely that North Korea would target Guam.
Trump on Friday threatened “big, big trouble in North Korea” in response to any North Korean attack. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis echoed that sentiment, saying a North Korean launch at Guam “could escalate into war very quickly,” but neither specified whether launching missiles near Guam would constitute an attack on the island.
Mattis added that if the US perceived itself to be under attack, it would aim to shoot the missiles down. The US and Japan have a handful of advanced missile-defense capabilities in the region, but none have been used in defense. It would also be difficult for the US to distinguish a pending attack against Guam from a test.
At the same time, it would also be difficult for North Korea to accurately place its missiles short of Guam, as the Hwasong-12, the missile it proposed using, has been successfully tested only once.