North Korea tension prompts US missile test delay

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, March 2013 North Korea has made a series of direct threats against the US and South Korea

The US has delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test scheduled for next week, defence officials say.

The Minuteman 3 test was put off over concerns it could be misinterpreted by North Korea, amid fears of a conflict.

It could be postponed until May, in what correspondents say will be portrayed by Pyongyang as a victory.

North Korea has issued a series of unusually strong threats since it was sanctioned by the UN in March for carrying out a third nuclear test.

It has threatened nuclear strikes on the US, formally declared war on the South, and pledged to reopen a nuclear reactor in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

A Pentagon official said the US wanted to "avoid any misperception or miscalculation" that might result from the test.

US and South Korean officials have sought to play down fears of a conflict on the Korean peninsula in recent days.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul says Pyongyang will likely use the delay to its advantage in propaganda, and say the US has been forced to climb down in the face of resilience from the North Korean army.

The North Korean media are full of images of military preparedness, he adds, intended to rally people behind the leadership.

On Friday, North Korea warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassy staff in the event of a war, but no foreign governments have announced plans to evacuate their embassies.

Guam threat
South Korean armoured vehicles in a military drill in Hwacheon (1 April 2013) North Korea has been angered by the current US-South Korean drills

Many of North Korea's angry statements have cited annual military exercises between US and South Korean forces as provocation.

The US flew nuclear-capable B2 and B52 bombers over the South as part of the drill, and has since deployed warships with missile defence systems to the region.

This week, the North reportedly moved at least one missile to its east coast. It has threatened to strike the Pacific island of Guam, where the US has a military base.

North Korea's missiles have the capability to carry nuclear warheads, but the country is not yet thought to have developed such warheads.

Many observers say that North Korea's belligerent rhetoric appears intended for a domestic audience and at shoring up the position of Kim Jong-un, who came to power after his father's death in December 2011.

However, they also say that knowledge of the North's political calculations risk is limited, and the risk of a major escalation has increased amid the heightened tension of recent weeks.

Our correspondent adds that Pyongyang sees itself as vulnerable, having seen the upheaval in countries like Syria and Iraq, and is using the threat of nuclear weapons to protect itself.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Brought up amongst luxuries in guarded compound. Kim Jong Un is very afraid that those privileges will be removed if he fails to assert himself.

    If the regime were to tumble then all the stolen wealth assembled around him would be forfeit and Kim Jong Un end up in prison, or execution?

    In the end it is all about greed and stealing. Assad, Mugabe, and many others. They are all the same ?

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    I suggest that Kim Jong Un has some big Daddies behind the scenes who are ordering him about. Fat boys are always easy to bully

    Old Communist Party guys who just cannot stop doing it. There are plenty of those still staggering about in China as well. Unfortunately the world has to wait until these old men drop dead !

    Regimes never ever admit they are wrong! Far to egoccentric to do that

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    We've become used to N Korean 'sabre-rattling' over the years, but under Kim Jong Il it was often just words. The son seems far more willing to back up his threats with action.
    That makes him a far more dangerous individual in my view.
    He's not a naughty fat kid, as some portray him. He's head of a paranoid, totalitarian, nuclear-capable regime.
    Now is a time for calmness & cool heads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.


    I think out of Nk and the USA, the USA are the ones with a history of warmongering. Kim is throwing out the threats because he has seen what the US do with allies that stop listening to them or want to trade oil in something other than the $. The US a responsible country? China, Russia and Uk responsible countries? They just don't have anyone higher disagreeing with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Obama is like the Harry Enfield character going "Calm Down, Calm Down" to Kim Jong Un.
    USA is like a big school bully with plenty of mates pushing people around. One day a small kid had enough, took lesson in self defence, and clobbered the big bully right in the nose, then all of the bully's mates no longer think it is cool to hang around him now his street cred has gone down the drain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    @ Mooker

    Very noble of you to try to apply your sense of ‘fair play’ to every situation regardless of it’s absurdity but if you don’t understand the difference between a democratic Western nation & member of the UN having nuclear weapons & a paranoid, pathological regime led by an adrenalin-pumped boy who readily starve their own people having them you really shouldn't bother commenting

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Re 63 Hellblazer

    Don't disagree with the gist of your comment but it has nothing to do with my previous comment which was to challenge Mooker's simplistic & erroneous view

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    ref #53

    How about who is acting irresponsbily you have a dictatorship who starves it's people such that the biology of North Koreans have been affected. they are threatening South Korea and Japan without justification.

    why is it so difficult to comprehend that countries like NK and Iran threaten civilization?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    It is absurd to understand how North Korea could contemplate a war. North Korea is such a small country that it would not take many bombs to finish it, if countries attacked were forced to retaliate. I like the amusing zestful style of North Korean newsreaders even though I can't understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    @Mooker A missile is not necessarily a "weapon of mass destruction" - oh and the U.S. doesn't threaten to nuke half the world every time someone sneezes too loudly. So yeah, it is acceptable for the U.S. (China, Russia, the UK, etc) and other responsible countries to have nukes - There are massive differences in how these countries conduct themselves vs NK

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    N. Korea is a huge embarrasment to regime China

    The Chinese Communist Party set up N. Korea in first place as a mirror copy of themselves. Marxism gone completely crazy, resulting in mad Mao inflicting himself on all parts of the East

    But of course China will never repair this stupidity. Too much loss of national pride, loss of face?

    It is up to West to clear up China's back yard mess?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    3.CaptEngland - "Isn't it a bit hypocritical that the Left moan about Neocon's country's abuse of human rights, but country's like North Korea are not mentioned?"

    Yeah, one on the "left" has ever moaned about NK's human rights record......

    ....your comment is pathetic - it you have enever heard such comments it is because you have choosen not to bother looking for them.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.


    I'd be pretty scared if i was Kimmie. he will have watched the West make very good friends with other dictators, then when those dictators decided they wanted to move away from a central bank, or start trading oil for gold, they were invaded o their opponents helped by the West. If I was Iran or good ole Kimmie, I'd want nukes as well. it's the only way you will be listened too.

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    I see William Hague has called for calm despite all the "paranoid rhetoric" emanating from the regime.
    So that's the Tory party sorted out.
    I wonder what he has to say about Pyongyang.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The antics of North Korea are just the same as they have been with previous leaders.This back and forth approach has been going on since 1950's. It surely has got to get a conclusion sooner rather than later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    If he was going to get serious he would have done something by now instead of sounding off about what he might do.He obviously enjoys being an international star,this will only run for another week or so and then if nothing happens it will just fizzle out.Quite incredible really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    @47. Rebecca Riot
    Pride, arrogance & schoolboy behaviour is behind the USA's sabre rattling

    why does Obama need to have these offensive weapons on show?

    it is high time this upstart colonists were returned to the motherland they so selfishly rejected? Im sure her Maj would be forgiving!


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