Concerns that North Korea is planning another missile launch were eased slightly on Monday after US officials said that two medium-range missile were removed from a launch site.
Pyongyang has been expected to launch the missiles for weeks, prompting US Secretary of State John Kerry to warn North Korea that the launch would be a “huge mistake”.
The imminent launch heightened tensions on the peninsula but over the past few days US officials said it was clear that the missiles had been removed from their east-coast launch site.
Pentagon spokesman George Little told ABC News that the missile removal was a “pause” in military provocation by Pyongyang.
“Historically, North Korea’s going through cycles of provocations [that] then come to an end,” Little said.
“That’s been helpful. And we do think that they probably heard very loudly from us, and from others, the need to ratchet it back and to lower the temperature. That was our desire, but also from the South Koreans and the Japanese and the Chinese government, [which] also made some helpful statements. So I can’t say with certainty, but I think those are some of the factors.”
North Korea toned down its war rhetoric in recent weeks. Since then, the regime has moved away from military shows of force in general.
Instead, experts in Seoul point out that North Korea has, since April, shifted to non-military threats. It has withdrawn its 53,000 workers from the Kaesong industrial complex it shares with South Korea, and sentenced US national Kenneth Bae to 15 years’ hard labor.
Pyongyang could see those as more strategic moves than pushing the envelope on military might – which, should it attack, would invite an overwhelming retaliation from US and South Korean forces.