Rival Koreas masters at pulling back from the brink

If history is any judge, the Koreas always seem to find a way to save face and avert the war that both sides have been threatening since 1953:

December 2010: North Korea backs off from an earlier threat of “catastrophic retaliation” after South Korea defiantly goes ahead with live-fire drills near the country’s disputed western sea boundary.

May 2010: North Korea threatens “all-out counterattacks” after Seoul moves to resume psychological warfare operations to punish the North over a torpedo attack that reportedly killed 46 South Korean sailors earlier in the year.

Early 2000s: In what has been called the “second North Korean nuclear crisis,” animosity soars after Washington says the North, after being confronted in 2002 by a U.S. envoy, admits privately that it has a secret nuclear fuel program, a violation of an earlier nuclear accord. North Korea denies this and, already angry at being lumped earlier by President George W. Bush into an “Axis of Evil,” says in early 2003 that it has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. South Korea, meanwhile, tries to better ties with the North under two liberal presidents, including Kim Dae-jung who is awarded the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.

1992-94: The “first North Korean nuclear crisis” includes North Korean threats to withdraw from the NPT and Washington’s exploration of possible air strikes amid U.S. government estimates that the North is pursuing large-scale nuclear bomb fuel production. There’s also the North’s 1994 threat, for the first time, to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.”

1968: A team of 31 North Korean commandos slips undetected across the border and comes within striking distance of the Seoul palace of President Park Chung-hee, the dictator father of current President Park Geun-hye. Furious, Park establishes a secret commando team tasked with demolishing Kim Il Sung’s presidential mansion. Despite this drama, the rival Koreas eventually sign a major accord in 1972 to work toward peaceful reunification.

[AP]

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