As promised, South Korea went through with its 90-minute military drill from Yeonpyeong Island Monday morning, the same disputed territory that North Korea shelled last month in retaliation for another maritime drill. Although Pyongyang initially threatened catastrophe if Seoul conducted this morning's exercise, North Korea decided it wasn't such a big deal after all, claiming that the shells landed farther from its shores, and held its fire rather than tipping the countries over from the brink. Maybe they were tired of China calling them a "spoiled child"? North Korea's attack in November, which killed four people, constituted the worst assault on South Korea territory since the 1953 armistice (technically, the war is ongoing). Despite that fact, North Korea thinks it came out smelling like roses this morning, saying, "The world should properly know who is the true champion of peace." Of course! Who could doubt North Korea, the picture of restraint. That South Korean warship that sunk in March probably just torpedoed itself.
What happens next? North Korea was thought to have carried out November's show of aggression to assert Kim Jong Il's son's military bona fides as a potential successor. But Pyongyang also tends to get aggressive "to push South Korea and the United States to the negotiating table where they expect to win concessions in return for promises of 'best' behavior." North Korea wants to return to six-party talks as a recognized nuclear power, but South Korea, the U.S., and Japan say they'll only return if Pyongyang commits to denuclearization. South Korea, meanwhile, has vowed to continue its drills and issue forceful retaliation if the North attacks again. Seoul has already changed the U.N. restrictions put in place by the armistice so that it could hit back hard in self-defense. Despite rising tension and escalated military action, experts still predict an all-out war is unlikely, but South Koreans might want to stay in their bunkers just a little while longer.