No more war, urges South Korea president
Seoul wants peaceful resolution with the North
SEOUL: Tensions on the Korean peninsula eased slightly yesterday as South Korea's president said resolving Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions must be done peacefully, and key US officials played down the risk of an imminent war with North Korea.
Concern that North Korea is close to achieving its goal of putting the mainland United States within range of a nuclear weapon has underpinned a spike in tensions in recent months.
US President Donald Trump warned at the weekend that its military was "locked and loaded" if North Korea acted unwisely after threatening last week to land missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam.
"There must be no more war on the Korean peninsula. Whatever ups and downs we face, the North Korean nuclear situation must be resolved peacefully," South Korean President Moon Jae In told a regular meeting with senior aides and advisers.
"I am certain the United States will respond to the current situation calmly and responsibly in a stance that is equal to ours."
US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Joseph Dunford told Mr Moon in a meeting yesterday that US military options being prepared against North Korea would be for when diplomatic and economic sanctions failed, according to Mr Moon's office.
While backing Mr Trump's tough talk, US officials including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster played down the risk of the rhetoric escalating into conflict.
"I think we're not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago," he told ABC News' This Week programme.
US Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might conduct another missile test, but talk of being on the cusp of a nuclear war was overstating the risk.
"I've seen no intelligence that would indicate that we're in that place today," Mr Pompeo told Fox News.
However, North Korea reiterated its threats, with its official KCNA news agency saying "war cannot be blocked by any power if sparks fly due to a small, random incident that was unintentional".
"Any second Korean War would have no choice but to spread into a nuclear war," it said in a commentary yesterday.
Meanwhile, South Korean Vice-Defence Minister Suh Choo Suk agreed North Korea was likely to continue provocations, including nuclear tests, but did not see a big risk of the North engaging in actual military conflict.
"Both the United States and South Korea do not believe North Korea has yet completely gained re-entry technology in material engineering terms," Mr Suh said in remarks televised on Sunday. - REUTERS