Sec. Mattis issues warning, North Korea decides not to launch missiles at Guam

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has decided not to fire missiles at the U.S. military base on Guam after Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned doing so would mean “it’s game on.” From CNN:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued a strong warning to North Korea Monday: “If they shoot at the United States, I’m assuming they’ve hit the United States. … If they do that, then it’s game on.”

“You don’t shoot at people in this world unless you want to bear the consequences,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

Soon after Mattis issued his warning, state-run North Korean media outlet KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had inspected his military’s plan to launch missiles at Guam and discussed the possibility of a strike with his top commanders.

Kim Jong Un’s plan, which was revealed last week, was to fire four missiles at the U.S. base on Guam but have them fall into the sea in international waters, a few miles short of their target. It’s actually difficult to tell from the audio (listen below) if Mattis’ was asking a question or making a statement when he said “I’m assuming they’ve hit the United States.” CNN is taking it as a statement but judge for yourself.

Also today, the Wall Street Journal reports China is cracking down on North Korean imports in response to some moves by the Trump administration:

North Korean state media said Tuesday that Kim Jong-un had made his decision not to fire on Guam after visiting a military command post and examining a military plan presented to him by his senior officers. But it warned that he could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

The turnabout came as the US and China were engaged in a delicate contest on two fronts, with each trying to push the other to handle the North Korea situation in the way it preferred, even while both sparred over trade issues that they insisted were unrelated.

Beijing said it would ban imports of North Korean coal, iron and seafood, starting Tuesday, measures that hew to sanctions passed by the UN Security Council this month targeting Pyongyang’s nuclear-arms program. The timing of the announcement was a response to Mr Trump’s plans to kick off a probe into China’s alleged theft of US intellectual property, according to people with knowledge of the Chinese leadership’s thinking.

This seems like a pretty clear win for the Trump administration which rallied the world against North Korea at the U.N., got China to step up economic pressure and also, it seems, made clear to Kim Jong Un that firing missiles in our direction would be extremely hazardous to the continuation of his regime. Of course the problem with crazed dictators is they aren’t very predictable. Kim may have gotten the message for now but that doesn’t mean he won’t be making new threats (or testing new missiles) by the weekend.

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