North Korea backed off from a threat that it would retaliate if the South went ahead with the live-fire drill on the Yeonpyeong islands.
South Korean marines line up with their weapons during an inspection at Mallipo beach in Taean, about 170km (106 miles) southwest of Seoul. (FILE) REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Is North Korea finally, though momentarily perhaps, willing to stop playing the role of an angry child throwing toys from the pram?

Even discounting the fact that Pyongyang's diplomatic utterances are predictably tinged with bellicose overtones, the threat that it will launch retaliatory fire if the South went ahead with the live-fire drill seemed grave enough. However, the drill took place and the North backed off from a much vocal threat.

The communist regime had put its army on alert and warned of 'deadlier attacks' if the South went ahead with live-fire drills in the Yellow Sea.

Russia and China had urged Seoul to refrain from the military exercises, and the UN Security Council had discussed the issue though it could not reach agreement.

However, as the South carried out the drill lasting an hour and a half, the North did not launch the promised attack, but issued a dovish comment saying the drill was not worth reacting to.
New York Times said in an article North Korea's unexpected restraint might signal, at least for now, that it is shifting away from its recent military provocations.

Meanwhile, Voice of America reported that China has asked Pyongyang to allow international nuclear inspectors, a step that could substantially help reduce the military tension in the peninsula. Not surprisingly, the Chinese foreign ministry official's statement followed a similar assessment by a prominent U.S. politician who returned from a visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday.

New Mexico governor Bill Richardosn, who was formerly the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Pyongyang was now willing to let international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials inspect its nuclear facilities to make sure they are not enriching uranium for nuclear weapons.

I noticed a pragmatic attitude on their [North Korea's] part, a more realistic attitude, a view perhaps that they had moved a little too far down the precipice, and that it was time to come back and pull back and start negotiations again. I did notice that and when I pushed hard for non-retaliation, I saw a little bit of movement in a positive direction, VOA quoted Richardson as saying.

China has not condemned ally North Korea for the shelling of the Yeonpyeong islands that worsened a long-simmering conflict between the two nations which are technically at war since an armistice ended the Korean war. The foreign ministry spokesperson said Pyongyang had the right to go ahead with peaceful nuclear activity but urged the country to allow UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.