According to North Korean state media, supreme leader Kim Jong-un reviewed plans to fire missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam but will hold off.
Although prepared for “the enveloping fire at Guam”, North Korea said it would watch what “the foolish Yankees” do before taking a decision.
Last week’s threat against Guam escalated the sharp rhetoric being exchanged between the two sides.
This latest report points to a pause in the increasingly bitter war of words.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged the US not to launch an attack on the Korean peninsula without its consent, saying “no one may decide to take military action without the consent” of the South.
The KCNA report said Kim Jong-un “examined the plan for a long time” and discussed it with senior military officials.
Kim Jong-un was now merely waiting for orders “after rounding off the preparations for the enveloping fire at Guam”.
Correspondents say that after days of menacing threats it might seem that the North Korean leader could be in the mood to finally hit the pause button – but in a nation as secretive as North Korea, one can never be sure.
Analysts say it could simply mean North Korea is not fully ready to launch an attack on Guam, so it could just be buying more time.
South Korea and China – North Korea’s closest ally – have been urging calm and a renewed push for diplomatic resolutions.
On August 15, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the US should not act unilaterally. The two countries’ defense agreement states that they must “consult together” when either is threatened.
On August 14, China’s foreign ministry reiterated its “suspension for suspension proposal” where North Korea stops its missile tests in exchange for a freeze on military exercises by the US and South Korea.
Defense Secretary James Mattis earlier warned that any attack could quickly escalate into war, and if North Korea fired a missile towards Guam, “then it’s game on.”
He told reporters that the US military would defend the country “from any attack, at any time and from any quarter”.
James Mattis also sought to reassure residents of Guam, home to US military bases and about 160,000 people, that they were well-protected and if a missile was fired, “we’ll take it out”.