S. Korean Official: North's Lack Of Retaliation A Political Play

"South Korea downplayed North Korea's decision to not follow through on threatened retaliation to its live-fire military drill this week as political maneuvering, according to a key South Korean military official.

Seoul is working to adjust its security approach, believing that North Korea might launch less conventional attacks -- including possible terrorist strikes on large civilian gatherings, according to the South Korean government official. South Korea might also strengthen its intelligence capability, the official said, calling it increasingly crucial to its defense.

The South Korean live-fire naval drill ended peacefully Monday after an hour and 34 minutes. After once threatening the exercise could spur a war, North Korean military leaders said retaliation wasn't necessary but issued a stern warning to South Korea and the United States, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The key South Korean government official dismissed North Korea's lack of military response as a calculated political decision to build goodwill with China, Russia and other allies.In recent days, the North agreed to allow U.N. inspectors access to its uranium-enrichment facility and take other steps that could defuse tension if implemented, including consideration of the formation of a military commission between North Korea, South Korea and the United States.

Those steps generated at least the possibility of rare optimism on the Korean peninsula, which has been gripped by anxiety since the sinking of a South Korean warship killed 46 sailors in March. Tensions rose higher last month, when North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians. The North has accused the South of provoking the Yeonpyeong attack because shells from a South Korean military drill landed in the North's waters.

The latest developments in North Korea came amid a visit to North Korea by Bill Richardson, the f