NKorea Backs Away From Threat To Attack South

by
staphni
"(AP)
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.""

It's not the first time that the North has taken the international community down this road. The North 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, meanwhile, on efforts to rid the North of its nuclear weapons programs has been rare.

Monday's drills came nearly a month after the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island, a tiny enclave of fishing communities and military bases about seven miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores, in response to an earlier round of South Korean live-fire maneuvers. The North Korean artillery barrage killed 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.

They've remained in a tense standoff since the Nov. 23 attack, and an emergency meeting of U.N. diplomats in New York on Sunday failed to find any solution to the crisis.

But Monday brought some of the f