In a sharp contrast to the bellicose language coming from President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the leader of South Korea said Thursday he was confident there would be no conflict with North Korea.
"The people worked together to rebuild the country from the Korean War, and we cannot lose everything again because of a war," President Moon Jae-in said in a nationally televised news conference, translated by The Associated Press. "I can confidently say there will not be a war again on the Korean Peninsula."
Over the last ten days, Pyongyang has threatened to fire missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam, and Trump promised to visit "fire" and "fury" on North Korea if it continued to threaten the U.S., before warning his military was "locked and loaded" and ready for battle.
This has cooled slightly in recent days, with suggestions from North Korea that dictator Kim Jong Un would monitor the actions of the U.S. before launching toward Guam. This led Trump to tweet Wednesday that Kim had "made a very wise and well reasoned decision."
Nevertheless, South Korea has not historically been the source of calming language with regard to its neighbor. The two sides have been enemies ever since the 1950-3 Korean War ended with an armistice — no peace treaty was ever signed.
Elected in May, Moon broke with almost 10 years of conservative rule in South Korea that saw governments deepen the animosity toward the North. He ran on a platform of engaging with Pyongyang.
"A dialogue between South and North Korea must resume. But we don't need to be impatient," Moon said Thursday, according to the AP. "I think lots of effort and time could be necessary to overcome a decade of severed ties and to reopen a dialogue."
The South Korean president added he was in regular contact with the U.S., and that Trump's administration had "promised to sufficiently consult with South Korea and get our approval for whatever option they will take against North Korea. It's a firm agreement between South Korea and the United States."
Seoul, the South Korean capital, is less than 30 miles from the North Korean border. With North Korean artillery trained on the city, many experts agree that any conflict would likely result in mass causalities.
This was acknowledged by the U.S.'s top military officer Thursday when he said that any military action on the Korean Peninsula would be "horrific." However, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that while that outcome would be bad, a nuclear attack on the U.S. would be worse.
Dunford told reporters while on a visit to China that it's "absolutely horrific if there would be a military solution to this problem, there's no question about it," according to the news agency. But, he added, "what's unimaginable is allowing [Kim] to develop ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead that can threaten the United States and continue to threaten the region."
He added that Trump has "told us to develop credible viable military options and that's exactly what we're doing."
The general was responding to questions about an interview by Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon, who told Prospect magazine that, because of the likely casualties that would result from a Korean conflict, "there's no military solution, forget it."