South Koreans see North Korea's restraint as calculated
On Yeonpyeong Island and on the streets of Seoul, South Koreans say that North Korea is hoping to portray itself as a voice of reason by not responding to South Korea's artillery drills Monday.
Seoul, South Korea
North Korea Monday failed to follow through on its pointed threats to deliver a double dose of retaliation after the South carried out a live-fire artillery drill near the disputed sea border between the two states.Skip to next paragraph
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But for many relieved South Koreans, the decision not to respond was merely a bluff intended to extract concessions – and appease an unimpressed international community.
The 90-minute-long afternoon exercise off the southwest coast of Yeonpyeong island passed off without even the hint of a countermeasure from the North, according to observers on the scene.
As the night progressed with still no sign of another attack after the drill’s 4 p.m. close, fears that the frontline outcropping would be the center of another escalation in tensions were gradually quelled. With it, a realigned calm appeared to descend over South Korea.
For Jung Sung-san, a defector who escaped from North Korea in 1995, the non-response was inevitable.
“The fact North Korea is not responding to this drill means they have already calculated their own tactics under the table,” says Mr. Jung, the director of a play on life inside a North Korean prison camp. “I think the joint South Korean-US drills that happened in November involving the USS George Washington already showed the North we are not going to cave in.”
Choi Dae-suk, a North Korea expert based at Ehwa Womans University in Seoul, took a similar stance. He believes the North made a “rational decision” not to respond having already demonstrated during the Nov. 23 attack on Yeonpyeong that the maritime border was disputed territory. “For the South Korean government, because the area where the drill was practiced is our own territory,” Choi continued, “it was a rational decision to proceed with the drill.”
Yet he believes the North may have decided that by not delivering on its latest threats, it could emerge as the voice of reason – in turn making the South “look like they did something wrong against the advice of international community members.”