WASHINGTON - The Obama administration, which has made military moves intended to signal to North Korea and U.S. allies that it takes Pyongyang's threats seriously, plans to switch gears and tone down public pronouncements about joint military exercises with Seoul, US officials said Thursday.
The US messaging, which has included flying two B-2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula and the announcement of new or expanded missile defense systems in Alaska and Guam, was intended to reassure South Korea and Japan it would back them in a crisis, the officials said.
But it also appears to have prompted even greater threats and bellicose rhetoric from North Korea.
"Our actions thus far have had their intended effect: they've shown our deterrence capability and our willingness to defend South Korea. We always make adjustment and if going quiet for a short period of time gives the North Koreans space to dial back their rhetoric, fine," said one U.S. official.
US officials say they do not see a conflict with North Korea as imminent. And they have told US allies Pyongyang's threats of war appear to be just rhetoric, according to UN diplomats.