In return, Seoul had threatened air strikes if North Korea fired any more shells at its territory. The government went ahead with the war games, despite pleas from Beijing and Moscow to call them off, because “it did not want to be seen to be bullied,” explains Han Sung-joo, a former South Korean foreign minister.
“If each North Korean threat tied our hands, we would become hostage to their threats,” Mr. Han says.
The drills were designed “to demonstrate their [South Korean] resolve and try to restore deterrence,” adds Daniel Pinkston, an analyst in Seoul with the International Crisis Group think tank. “It was mostly a political signal.”
Pyongyang decided not to answer that signal Monday, suggests Professor Myers, because the secretive regime, widely blamed for sparking the current crisis, “realized they could probably get at least an international propaganda advantage out of not retaliating … to show the rest of the world they are not the hostile ones.”
The North's Army Supreme Command stated Monday, "The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK did not feel any need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation like one taking revenge after facing a blow," according to a statement quoted by the official KCNA news agency.