North Korea called on South Korean artillery drills on a front-line island on Monday a “reckless military provocation” but said it would not retaliate, backing away from earlier threats to strike back.
The North said after the 90-minute drills ended that it was holding its fire because Seoul had changed its firing zones.
The official Korean Central News Agency statement suggested that the North viewed Monday’s drills differently from the ones that provoked it last month because South Korean shells landed farther south of the North’s shores. Last month’s drills were followed by a North Korean shelling that killed two marines and two civilians, destroyed large parts of the island and sent tensions between the Koreas soaring.
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 towards the North.
The North on Monday, however, kept its rhetoric heated, saying it will use its powerful military to blow up South Korean and U.S. bases.
During its drills, South Korea launched fighter jets to deter attacks. It also evacuated hundreds of residents near its tense land border with the North and sent residents of islands near disputed waters into underground bunkers amid soaring fears of war.