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Trump, Abe Agree: Stopping North Korea Top Priority as North Puts Off Test


President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands following their joint news conference in the White House in Washington, Feb. 10, 2017.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he and U.S. President Donald Trump have agreed that stopping North Korea from launching nuclear missiles is their top priority.

Abe and Trump reached the agreement during a phone call Tuesday, the Japanese leader told reporters in Tokyo.

The dialogue between the two allies came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he will wait to launch missiles at the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts with scientists and technicians of the DPRK Academy of Defense Science after the test-launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.
FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts with scientists and technicians of the DPRK Academy of Defense Science after the test-launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.

Kim to observe

North Korea’s official news agency KCNA said Tuesday that Kim had received a report from his army on its plans to strike the area around Guam, which is home to a number of U.S. military facilities.

The report said Kim will continue to observe “the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before making a final decision. But he was also quoted as saying “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions” on the Korean Peninsula, the North would follow through with its plans.

Kim also urged the United States to, “show through actions if they wish to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and prevent a dangerous military clash,” according to the KCNA report.

Locator map for Guam, with visitor arrivals in the past years.
Locator map for Guam, with visitor arrivals in the past years.

Moon tries to calm fears

The statement was an apparent reference to the annual joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that are scheduled to begin next week. Pyongyang considers the drills a dress rehearsal for an invasion of the North, a charge denied by Washington and Seoul.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is also trying to calm fears of a possible war.

In a speech Tuesday marking the anniversary of the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II, President Moon vowed that his government “will put everything on the line” to prevent another war on the peninsula, and added that no military action can take place on the peninsula without Seoul’s consent.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 2, 2017.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 2, 2017.

Mattis warning

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a warning to North Korea, saying any attempt to launch missiles at U.S. soil “could escalate into war very quickly.”

“If they do that, it’s game on,” Mattis told Pentagon reporters during an impromptu briefing late Monday. “You don’t shoot at people in this world unless you want to bear the consequence.”

Mattis sought to allay fears following previous North Korean threats to launch missiles in the direction of Guam.

“We know within moments where it’s going,” he said of any potential launch.

The U.S. defense chief said if officials determine a missile is likely to hit Guam, “We’ll take it out.”

Mattis has not shied away from similarly tough talk in the past but has consistently emphasized Washington would prefer diplomatic solutions to resolve differences with Pyongyang.

“The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, published Monday. “We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone.”

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