Reckless speculation about a North Korean military attack on the US island territory of Guam has continued despite North Korea making clear the missile test fire they were designing only meant to send missiles to the waters off Guam’s coast. Now, even that looks unlikely.
Though some early reports suggested North Korea was likely to move forward with the tests as soon as the plan was finished, the plans were never approved by Kim Jong-un, and now the plans are finished, and Kim’s still not acting.
State media suggests Kim is holding back the possibility of such tests as a response to future US acts, but this is already leading to Western media speculation that Kim is backing down for fear of US retaliation.
Whatever the reason, the “threat” to Guam was clearly overstated, and the fact that missiles aren’t hitting the water around the island presents a golden opportunity for both sides to back away from the military confrontation they both seemed escalating toward last week,and toward serious diplomacy.
Embracing this opportunity may be difficult for the Trump Administration, as they’ve rejected previous diplomatic overtures originating from China and South Korea primarily on the grounds that they’re diplomatic in nature. The first impulse of many in the administration will likely to be claim “victory” over North Korea if the missiles aren’t launched, which in turn will likely provoke North Korea into feeling they have to fire them just to avoid showing weakness, particularly as the US advances toward another military exercise in South Korea.