N. Korea backpedals on threat to at­tack South

Dayton Daily News - - NATION+WORLD - As­so­ci­ated Press

YEON­PYEONG IS­LAND, South Korea — North Korea backed off threats to re­tal­i­ate against South Korea for mil­i­tary drills Mon­day and re­port­edly of­fered con­ces­sions on its nu­clear pro­gram — signs it was look­ing to lower the tem­per­a­ture on the Korean penin­sula af­ter weeks of soar­ing ten­sions.

But Py­ongyang has feinted to­ward con­cil­i­a­tion be­fore and failed to fol­low through.

The North’s ges­tures came af­ter South Korea launched fighter jets, evac­u­ated hun­dreds of res­i­dents near its tense land border with the North and sent res­i­dents of is­lands near dis­puted wa­ters into un­der­ground bunkers in case Py­ongyang fol­lowed through on its vow to at­tack over the drills.

“It ap­pears that de­ter­rence has been re­stored,” said Daniel Pinkston, Seoul-based an­a­lyst with the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group think tank. “The North Kore­ans only un­der­stand force or show of force.”

North Korea has pre­vi­ously been ac­cused of us­ing a mix of ag­gres­sion and con­cil­ia­tory ges­tures to force in­ter­na­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions that usu­ally net it much-needed aid. Real progress on ef­forts to rid the North of its nu­clear weapons pro­grams has been rare.

On Nov. 23, the North shelled Yeon­pyeong Is­land, a tiny en­clave of fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties and mil­i­tary bases about seven miles from North Korean shores, in re­sponse to an ear­lier round of South Korean live-fire ma­neu­vers.

The North’s ar­tillery bar­rage killed two marines and two con­struc­tion work­ers in its first at­tack tar­get­ing civil­ian ar­eas since the 1950-53 Korean War.

As­so­ci­ated Press photo by Ahn Young-joon

South Korean res­i­dents and jour­nal­ists take a shel­ter be­side a po­lice of­fi­cer as South Korea fired live ar­tillery in a drill on Yeon­pyeong is­land, South Korea, on Mon­day.

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