South Korea began its scheduled artillery drills late last night (Eastern U.S. time), after delaying the exercise several times due to poor local weather conditions around Yeonpyeong Island. The exercise lasted 90 minutes, and was accompanied by the launch of fighter jets to defend against threatened retaliation for North Korea. Civilians on Yeonpyeong Island, and some forward areas near the North Korean border on the mainland, were evacuated to bomb shelters as a precaution.
Although these new artillery drills were nearly identical to the exercise that North Korea cited as provocation for shelling Yeonpyeong last month, the North appeared to be backing off its threats this morning. According to the Associated Press, the official reason for the lack of a violent response is that South Korea’s shells “landed farther south of the North’s shores.” North Korea concluded its statement by “saying it will use its powerful military to blow up South Korean and U.S. bases,” which is the traditional Yuletide greeting from the communist dictatorship, and translates to “Happy Holidays!” in the subtle North Korean dialect.
The United Nations Security Council met in an emergency session yesterday to address rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, but proceeded to do absolutely nothing. They couldn’t even agree on a resolution condemning North Korea for its earlier murderous attacks, since China “strongly objected.” To be fair, only four people died in those attacks, and North Korea probably kills more of its own citizens on a slow day in Pyongyang. By the standards of the Chinese government, it’s not really an “outrage” until a communist dictatorship is harder on innocent foreigners than on its own people.
American observers remain on Yeonpyeong Island, continuing to monitor for signs of North Korean aggression. The North did promise its retaliation would consist of “unpredictable self-defensive blows,” as the Yonhap news agency reminds us. Yonhap also reports that communist forces spent yesterday afternoon uncovering artillery pieces, moving artillery batteries forward, and deploying decoy guns. So far, so good, but Korea is not out of the woods just yet.