Dunford says U.S. military options only if sanctions fail: South Korea

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But North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said earlier this month after a rare, brief meeting with his South Korean counterpart that Seoul's offer to resume dialogue "lacks sincerity".

"Moon has been telling Trump that a military option should never be considered, but there is not much we can do when two strong leaders (of North Korea and the United States) are clashing", said Lee Su-hoon, who headed a group of national security advisers for the president until July. "If North Korea makes the right decision, we will work together [with Pyongyang] to ensure the bright future of our nation by significantly expanding and improving inter-Korean exchanges", Moon said, stressing that peace on the Korean Peninsula could be achieved only through negotiations, and not by force.

Beijing had pledged to fully enforce the latest sanctions after the United States accused China of not doing enough to rein in its neighbour, which relies heavily on the Asian giant for its economic survival.

In an interview with German newspaper group RND, Gabriel said the maneuvers "could lead to North Korea using the opportunity for renewed provocation, for example, by firing an intermediate-range missile at Guam".

Dunford's comments appear to be meant to reassure America's South Korean allies that the U.S.is not unilaterally moving towards war with North Korea.

Asked during his news conference about Trump's rhetoric and whether it has made the situation worse, Dunford said the president is communicating to a number of different audiences, including North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and China. "We are closely monitoring every move by the United States".

Won Hyung-jin, an official from Modetour, a large South Korean travel agency, said several customers called with concerns, but they weren't anxious enough to pay cancellation fees for their trips. A statement from Moon's office quoted Dunford as saying that everyone hopes to resolve the situation without a war and that Washington will remain in close communication with Seoul.

Japan PM discusses Korean peninsula issue with US Prez
But it is contentious for also commemorating senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes by an global tribunal. Since visiting the shrine in person in December 2013, Abe has made cash contributions in lieu of visits.

Chinese President Xi Jinping talked on the phone Saturday with Trump and called for cool-headedness.

Trump has urged China to apply more pressure on North Korea.

While Moon's latest speech is in line with that of Seoul's stance, it is seen as a more refined and official proclamation of the government's position in handling the crisis, especially considering how Liberation Day speeches are considered one of the more important messages delivered by a South Korean president throughout the years. Beijing says its influence on Pyongyang is limited.

South Korea K1A2 (front) and US Army M1A2 (top) tanks participate in a defence exercise conducted to simulate a response to a possible attack from North Korea at the Mugeon-ri drill field on Paju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, 15 April 2017.

For all his bluster, Trump's words did not appear to be backed by significant military mobilization on either side of the Pacific, and an important, quiet diplomatic channel remained open.

State-owned Yuzhmash said it had not produced military-grade ballistic missiles since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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