The US Defence Department has postponed its plan to conduct an intercontinental ballistic missile test at its Air Force base in California amid escalating tensions with North Korea.
The Pentagon planned to conduct the Minuteman III test in the coming week, but put it off until sometime next month out of concerns the launch could further worsen the tension on the peninsula, the AP reported, citing one senior US defence official.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel made the decision Friday, the report said, noting it was not connected to the ongoing annual South Korean-US military exercises, which Pyongyang berated as a rehearsal for a "nuclear war of incursion" against it.
On Sunday, Seoul also announced the allies' militaries had decided to delay their annual Military Committee Meeting ? slated to take place in Washington later this month ? until after tension here subsides.
Seoul officials said the decision was made in consideration of current security situations and to maintain the firm military readiness posture.
During their MCM gathering, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Jung Seung-jo and his US counterpart Gen. Martin Dempsey were expected to show off their robust alliance against the provocative communist state.
They were expected to discuss current security conditions and agree on a new combined command structure that will be established after Seoul retakes wartime operational control in December 2015.
Some observers said through such delays, Washington appeared to send a signal to Pyongyang that it did not want to further escalate the tension.
"As tension escalates too much, both should think about a way out of the standoff. But as the North wouldn't do it to defuse tension, the US appears to have made some gesture to the North," said Kim Yeoul-soo, politics professor at Sungshin Women's University.
"But we never know how the young North Korean leader would interpret this. If that signal is received well, the North might normalize the operation of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and show some moves in the direction for tension reduction."
Tension has soared in recent weeks as Pyongyang has churned out belligerent statements targeting Washington and Seoul, and the US has sent a series of its strategic weapons systems such as B-2 and F-22 stealth warplanes in a show of force.
The North has threatened to strike US bases in South Korea, Japan, Guam, Hawaii and its mainland in angry over the allied military drills and fresh UN sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests.
The communist state has been seen making some preparations for missile launches. It has moved two intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers, called transporter-erector-launcher, to its east coast. The Musudan missile in question is known to have a range of 3,000-4,000 km that could bring Guam into striking range.
In response to that, the US has unveiled its plan to deploy a land-based "terminal high-altitude area defence system" to Guam in the coming weeks as a precautionary move to counter a possible attack.
The deployment plan came after the Pentagon unveiled its plan last month to strengthen missile defence against the North by installing 14 additional ground-based interceptors at its bases in Alaska and California by September 2017.