By Sam Kim
SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- Warning its patience is running out, North Korea praised itself Monday over its decision not to react to a high-stakes South Korean live-fire drill that had taken place near the countries' volatile Yellow Sea border earlier this month.
The Dec. 20 exercise on the island of Yeonpyeong took place amid the highest tension between the two Koreas in years, after the North bombarded the island last month and threatened to mount a deadlier attack should the South conduct another live-fire drill on it.
Despite the threat, the North refrained from retaliation, belittling the exercise as something that "does not even deserve a passing notice." Analysts said the restraint substantiated their observation that the impoverished communist country chooses to refrain from provocation when its foes are on full alert.
"Armed clashes have not occurred in the Yellow Sea of Korea despite the dangerous collusion between the U.S. and South Korean war-like forces," the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary.
"This is entirely thanks to the pluck, the self-restraint and steadfast will of the DPRK to preserve peace. But there is a limit to its patience, too," said the commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The DPRK is the acronym for the North's official title, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong, an island home to 1,300 South Koreans -- many of them fishermen -- left two marines and two construction workers dead in the first such indiscriminate attack on South Korean soil since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has vowed strong retaliation for the attack while public sentiment toward North Korea has sharply deteriorated. The U.S. has denounced the North for the attack while analysts said Pyongyang may be tempted to mount further provocations on the South in an effort to exploit cross-border tension as it seeks to accelerate its ongoing hereditary power succession.
"It was none other than the U.S. that egged those forces on to spark off the above-said shelling incident and escalate the tension on the Korean Peninsula," the Rodong Sinmun said, reiterating the North's claim that the South provoked the North first on Nov. 23.
"The puppet regime of South Korea is so despicable and coward that it cannot maintain its power even a moment without the protection of its American master," it said. "Its desperate efforts to do harm to the DPRK in reliance on this master would only precipitate its self-destruction."
North Korea refuses to respect the de facto Yellow Sea border that was drawn by a U.S. general at the end of the Korean War. Three deadly naval skirmishes have taken place near the boundary since 1999.
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