North Korea backs away from plan to launch missiles toward Guam

N. Korea backs down
N. Korea backs down 01:30

SEOUL, South Korea -- After a week of escalating nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, North Korea took a step back Tuesday. That has people breathing easier on Guam and in Seoul.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was presented with the plans to launch four ballistic missiles toward the island of Guam, but he decided to hold off … for now.

Nuclear options: Guam & S Korea 07:29

According to North Korean state media, he said he will "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees."

"This message from Kim Jong Un is definitely a de-escalation," says professor John Delury of international studies at Yonsei University.

He says North Korea may be signaling that it wants to start a dialogue despite the heated rhetoric from both sides.

John Delury CBS News

"This is not a big victory for Kim Jong Un. It's also not a humiliation," Delury told CBS News. "It shows that he's in command of his military. It shows that he can bring things up and he can also back them down."

They may be breathing a sigh of relief on Guam, but South Korean president Moon Jae-in says North Korea's missiles remain the biggest challenge facing his country.

Moon said Tuesday no one -- not even the U.S. -- can start a war on the Korean peninsula without South Korea's consent.

Protesters in Seoul called for peace and were critical of President Trump, who they think has made tensions worse.

The U.S. and South Korea are still set to conduct joint military exercises here in South Korea next week and that will likely antagonize North Korea. It considers those exercises rehearsals for war.

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    Ben Tracy is a CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent based in Washington, D.C.