North Korea ‘won’t hit back’
YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — South Korea’s military staged live-fire drills from an island just miles from rival North Korea’s shores yesterday, but Pyongyang said it would not strike back despite earlier threats to retaliate for the manoeuvres.
Seoul launched fighter jets, evacuated hundreds of people away from its tense land border with the North and sent residents of front-line islands into underground bunkers in case of attack. But none came, and while the North condemned the drills, it said it would hold its own fire.
The 90-minute exercise came nearly a month after the North responded to earlier maneuvers by shelling Yeonpyeong Island, killing two marines and two construction workers in its first attack targeting civilian areas since the 1950-53 Korean War. That clash sent tensions soaring between the two countries — which are still technically at war.
In an emergency meeting Sunday, U.N. diplomats meeting in New York failed to find any solution to the crisis, but there was some sign of diplomacy yesterday, as a high-profile American governor announced what he said were two nuclear concessions from the North.
North Korea called yesterday’s drills a “reckless military provocation” but said after they ended that it was holding its fire because Seoul had changed its firing zones.
The official Korean Central News Agency carried a military statement that suggested that the North viewed yesterday’s drills differently from the ones that provoked it last month because South Korean shells landed farther south of the North’s shores.
The North claims the waters around Yeonpyeong as its territory, and during last month’s artillery exchange, the North accused the South of firing artillery into its waters; the South said it fired shells southward, not toward the North.
The North yesterday, however, kept its rhetoric heated, saying it will use its powerful military to blow up South Korean and U.S. bases. (AP)