N. Korea leader briefed on plans for missile tests near Guam

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"(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un is a bully with some very strong weapons. a bully has to be countered very strongly".

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he's aiming to further develop a working relationship with his counterpart in China in order to lessen the risk of miscalculation on the Korean Peninsula as tensions rise between the US and North Korea.

Trump warned last week that North Korea would be met with "fire and fury" if it continued to threaten his country.

North Korea's Minju Joson newspaper said in an editorial Saturday that the North's army is "capable of fighting any war the USA wants".

"The US military is locked and loaded every day", Mr McMaster said, repeating Mr Trump's threat.

In a message broadcasted by the North Korean state-owned media outlet, Pyongyang blamed Washington for the current crisis and called for the USA to "speak and act properly".

Kim also urged the United States to "show through actions if they wish to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent a risky military clash", according to the KCNA report.

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Despite the reports of back channel talks between Washington and Pyongyang, the public battle of rhetoric between the two nuclear powers continues. Trump, responding to a report that USA intelligence indicates Pyongyang can now put a nuclear warhead on its long-range missiles, vowed to rain down "fire and fury" if challenged. The two envoys reportedly first engaged in negotiating the release of US college student Otto Warmbier two months ago. Instead, at the recent ASEAN security summit in the Philippines, Tillerson indicated the US would be open to talks if North Korea merely stopped the missile launches.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief government spokesman, said earlier this week that Tokyo "can never tolerate" provocations from North Korea and the country's military, will "take necessary measures".

Advocates for diplomacy see hopeful signs in the Trump administration's willingness to talk without rigid preconditions.

The North has always denounced the drills as provocative rehearsals for invasion and has in the past offered a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing in exchange for their cancellation - a trade-off promoted by Pyongyang's main ally China, but repeatedly rejected by Washington and Seoul. "So it could be a hint, sort of a model to get us out of this game of chicken", Delury said.

Senior U.S. national security officials say a military confrontation with North Korea's isn't imminent.

"Only the Republic of Korea can make the decision for military action on the Korean Peninsula". So the United States military is always locked and loaded. Beijing is North Korea's biggest economic partner and source of aid.