North Korea has announced it will not retaliate against South Korea's Monday military exercises. Many feared the exercises would escalate tensions, risking further violence, and in fact North Korea itself had issued dire warnings. Here's what Korea-watchers are saying about this latest development and what it means.

  • North Korea Backs Down  The New York Times' Mark McDonald and Martin Fackler write of the "surprisingly muted" response from Pyongyang. "North Korea sought to depict the drills by the South as a sign of aggression, painting its own lack of a response as peaceful restraint." Meanwhile, former U.S. envoy to North Korea and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson reported that North Korea offered to step down its nuclear program.
The North's proposal would allow United Nations nuclear inspectors back into the Yongbyon nuclear complex to ensure that it is not producing enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb. The North recently showed an American nuclear expert a new and stunningly sophisticated facility there. It expelled international inspectors last year.
  • Drills Open Rift in International Effort Against North Korea  Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes that "the drills exposed a serious diplomatic split within the membership of the moribund six-party talks aimed at removing North Korea’s nukes. China and Russia want the South to cancel the drills. The U.S. and Japan back the South. An emergency United Nations meeting on Sunday called by Russia didn’t resolve the tension. That’s a setback to U.S. efforts at yoking its military closer to the Chinese."
  • North Korean 'Response' Is Coming  "North Korea is not stupid," warns national security blogger Raymond Pritchett. "They will not fight South Korea on the terms of South Korea, they will wait and strike when the time is right for them." He says "the real question" is only when the counterattack comes. "A response from North Korea is coming, of that have no doubt. It will be on their time and in the place of their choosing."
  • Lots of Brinksmanship, But War Unlikely  "North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is also loath," The Christian Science Monitor's Nissa Rhee and Peter Ford write, "to risk any chance of a full-scale war that the North would undoubtedly lose, destroying his country and his son's prospects of taking power there." They quote this argument from David Kang of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California:

"We are in a new cold war on the Korean peninsula," Professor Kang says. "There will be name calling, threats, and posturing" on both sides, "and even some shooting," he predicts. "But I would be surprised to see a major military mobilization or the start of a second Korean War."

  • America's Role in the De-Escalation  D.C.-based journalist Tim Shorrock tweets:

What happened in Korea over the past 72 hours underscores how much influence the US wields in South Korea, esp on military matters.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck