DOD: North Korea ratcheting back war rhetoric against US

The "provocation pause" by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been "beneficial ... to ensure peace and stability on the [Korean] peninsula," Defense Department (DOD) press secretary George Little said Monday. 

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"A range of factors," including pressure from China and other regional powers, prompted Pyongyang's decision to "ratchet back" from its recent military buildup that roiled the Asia-Pacific earlier this year, Little told reporters at the Pentagon. 

Beijing, in particular, "made some helpful statements" to put a stop to North Korea's military escalation, Little added. 

He declined to go into details as to what efforts China took in an attempt to keep tensions on the peninsula from boiling over. 

However, Little's comments come as the Pentagon is seeking a "new type relationship" with Beijing in the Asia-Pacific, according to a DOD statement. 

Last week, the Pentagon announced it had completed its annual Foal Eagle military exercise with South Korea. 

The military drills, which began in early March, sparked the most recent game of military one-upmanship between Pyongyang and Washington that seemingly brought the region to the brink of war. 

Little, however, downplayed those tensions, saying Pyongyang's latest round of saber rattling was part of the country's long history of using threats of military action to force concessions from the international community. 

It remains unclear whether North Korea will hold to the strategic pause on military escalation in the region. 

But the silence coming from Kim's regime in recent weeks suggests U.S. efforts to tamp down tensions in the Pacific have been successful. 

The United States deployed a ballistic missile defense system to Guam and moved Navy ships, armed with anti-missile weaponry, off the Korean peninsula last month, in response to aggressive movements by the North Korean military during Foal Eagle. 

In response, North Korea has put its long-range artillery and rocket units on full alert and shuttering a military hotline with South Korea. Earlier this month, Pyongyang officially terminated the 1953 armistice with South Korea that ended the Korean War.

Later that month, U.S. forces began flying B-2 and B-52 heavy bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, in the skies above South Korea. 

Days after the bomber flights, Kim reportedly gave his military the green light to launch nuclear strikes against U.S. allies in the Pacific and targets inside the United States.