Although it would seem that the most immediate threat of war with North Korea has been averted, tensions between the two nations remain high, and the U.S. is not backing down from its aggressive stance.

Earlier this week, Kim Jong-un announced that he would place plans to launch four long-range ballistic missiles toward Guam on hold, as he assesses the behavior of the United States.  This decision came after President Donald Trump and a number of members of his cabinet made public statements indicating, in no uncertain terms, that the United States was prepared to go to war if North Korea attempted a missile strike on any U.S. or allied target.  Although the president received harsh criticism for the change in tactic, it would seem it may have been enough to make the North Korean leader reconsider the planned provocation.

As a part of the U.S. effort to apply increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Kim Jong-un’s regime, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Marine General Joseph Dunford, is currently amid a Pacific tour that has thus far included stops in Hawaii and China, and will continue through meetings set in Japan and South Korea before he returns to Washington.  During his stop in China, Dunford and his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui, the senior military leader for the China’s People’s Liberation Army, signed a joint communications agreement intended to help mitigate tensions between China and the United States.

China has been extremely critical of how the United States has handled relations with North Korea throughout what has developed into a type of nuclear standoff.  They continued with this chain of rhetoric this week by criticizing the United States’ planned joint military exercises with South Korea scheduled to begin later this month, suggesting that the drills may serve to further provoke Kim’s North Korean regime, who claim these drills are actually intended as a “rehearsal” for an invasion of the reclusive state.

General Dunford reportedly responded to these concerns by stating plainly that the drills were not up for debate, and that they will continue as planned, emphasizing once again that joint military exercises with South Korea are entirely defensive in nature.

According to KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, the United States and South Korea don’t have to intend to start a war during their scheduled drills, which commence on the 21st, as war could break out simply because of their presence.

“Even if no one wanted it, they would not be able to prevent a mere accidental spark from triggering a war,” a KCNA delivered statement said.

The United States has repeatedly stated that diplomacy is the preferred method of the Trump administration, but in the face of the threat of nuclear strikes, the U.S. would be prepared to take military action.