South Korea’s military announced provocative new artillery drills on the front-line island shelled in a deadly North Korean attack, then immediately postponed them Monday in a sign of disarray hours after the president vowed to get tough on the North.
The new drills originally planned for Tuesday could have had even higher stakes: South Korean and American warships are currently engaged in separate military exercises in waters to the south.
Pyongyang had warned last week that it would consider any South Korean drills off Yeonpyeong Island a deliberate provocation and territorial violation, and urged Seoul to call off last week’s exercises. The artillery attack that came after South Korea went ahead with its drills killed four and injured 18 people.
The two Koreas are required to abide by an armistice signed in 1953 at the close of their brutal, three-year war. However, North Korea does not recognize the maritime border drawn by the U.N. at the close of the war, and considers the waters around Yeonpyeong Island — just seven miles (11 kilometers) from its shores — its territory.