North Korea has decided to press the pause button on their plan to strike Guam, and is reportedly waiting for America to make the first move.
This is the first sign of an ebb to the escalation in rhetoric between North Korea and the U.S., after weeks of threats and shows of strength between the two countries. The tensions culminated in North Korea announcing preparations to strike the U.S. territory of Guam earlier this month.
According to the BBC, North Korean President Kim Jong Un reviewed plans to strike Guam, but decided to hold off. North Korea's state run news organization, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the North Korean government is holding off in order to see what "the foolish Yankees" do first.
According to the BBC, KCNA reported that Kim "examined the plan for a long time," with senior military officials before deciding to wait. He reportedly opted to let the U.S. make the first move.
The BBC reported that analysts said this could mean that Kim is ready to de-escalate tensions, but it could also mean that North Korea is just not yet ready to strike. The BBC added that North Korea's secretive nature makes it hard for analysts to determine the communist state's reasoning.
However, according to KCNA, the commander of the North Korean forces are still ready, and awaiting orders "after rounding off the preparations for the enveloping fire at Guam."
The lull in North Korea's plans may be the window looked for by South Korea for the de-escalation of tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. According to the BBC, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday that "no one may decide to take military action without the consent" of the South Korean government.
According to the defense agreement between South Korea and the U.S., both countries must first consult with one another first about military action on the Korean peninsula before an attack can occur. While the U.S. may attack regardless of South Korea's decision, Seoul is leaning toward de-escalation with its northern neighbor.
South Korea's primary goal with North Korea is peace. In July, South Korea's Unification Ministry offered to conduct peace talks between the militaries of the North and South. The offers have been largely ignored by North Korea. Instead, North Korea criticized the South Korean government for offering peace with one hand, and threatening military action with the other.
Unification Ministry officials said that the offer to conduct peace talks has no deadline.
South Korea has strong reasons for not going to war.
A war on the Korean Peninsula could potentially have serious financial drawbacks for South Korea. The Korean War fought in the 1950s crashed South Korea's GDP by 80 percent. South Korea is currently 11th in the world's top GDP earners, and makes up two percent of the world's GDP as a whole. A drastic dip in South Korea's economy would be felt by many countries across the globe.
As for North Korea, a war with the U.S. would be "suicidal," as one unnamed U.S. official stated. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that North Korea would be "grossly overmatched" by the military and technological might of the U.S., resulting in "the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."
Also, China, North Korea's ally in the region, warned Pyongyang that should it strike the U.S. first, it would not intervene on the communist country's behalf. Instead it would allow the U.S. to destroy it.
Simultaneously, China warned that should Washington strike at North Korea first, it would act against the U.S. in favor of North Korea.