The US military has cancelled a planned test of a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) over fears of escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The test, which was due to take place next week from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, has been delayed for a month following a series of increasingly bellicose threats from Pyongyang.
A propaganda victory for Kim Jong-un?
According to a US official, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to cancel the test on Friday fearing that a launch in the current political climate may risk escalating tensions further, a move that is likely to be used as a propaganda victory by Kim Jong-un.
On Sunday, the UK foreign secretary called for Western powers to remain calm in the face of the threats from the reclusive state, which he said was “making the wrong choice” by isolating itself from the international community rather than engaging in dialogue.
William Hague said: "We have to be concerned about the danger of miscalculation by the North Korean regime,” while suggesting that the North could use the escalation in tensions as a justification for placing the country on a greater military standing.
"What is going on is what we have often seen throughout history… this is a regime that has to justify the intense militarisation of their society."
Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Hague said that there were no current plans to move British diplomats out of the country, but promised to keep the situation “under close review”.
Mair: 'Is Kim Jong-un nuts?'
"There's a threat to the world from any country breaching the non proliferation treaty, which North Korea is doing, acting in contravention of a whole series of UN Security Council resolutions and setting out to develop more and more longer range weapons, testing new nuclear weapons and indulging in the proliferation of many items to other countries as well.
"We should be concerned about that. There is a danger in that," he added.
"But it is important to stress that we haven't seen in recent days, in recent weeks, a change in what is happening in North Korean society. We have not been able to observe that. We've haven't seen the repositioning of forces or the redeployment of ground forces that one might see in a period prior to a military assault or to an all out conflict."
The foreign secretary refused to speculate on whether Kim Jong-un was "nuts".
He said: "I don't know the man myself of course. It's not easy, although we have an embassy there, it's not easy to get face to face discussions with North Korean leaders so I'm not going to speculate about the psychology of the leader of North Korea except in the terms that I have already spoken about - that authoritarian and totalitarian regimes perfectly rationally from the point of view of their own survival in the short term often do this sort of thing, try to ramp up an external threat."
Last week, the North Korean military moved two Musudan missiles to the east coast of the country. The mobile intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which boast a range of more than 8,000 miles, could threaten US interests in the Pacific, particularly the US territory of Guam, as well as the Japanese mainland.
In response, the US has deployed a missile defence system around the island, while South Korea has sent destroyers to protect its coasts.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said: "We've obviously seen the reports that North Korea may be making preparations to launch a missile and we're monitoring this situation closely. And we would not be surprised to see them take such an action. It would fit their current pattern of bellicose, unhelpful and unconstructive rhetoric and actions."
A driver is stopped on the Unification Bridge in the North Korean city of Kaesong
On Friday, officials in Pyongyang said that the safety of consular staff in the hermetic state could no longer be guaranteed should war break out, however no country has yet closed their embassy, while a government spokesperson in Seoul told the Yonhap news agency that “foreign governments view the North Korean message as a way of ratcheting up tension".
Last week, North Korea blocked South Koreans from accessing the jointly run Kaesong industrial park. The ban remains in place.
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