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Nuclear North Korea: hoping for a breakthrough

North agreed to let UN inspectors in to assess nuclear program, after South's live-fire drills.

The United States insisted that the drills posed no threat to North Korea. In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. “It is hard to see how a routine live-fire exercise which has been held in the past poses any kind of threat to North Korea.

“North Korea should not use any future legitimate training exercises as a justification to undertake further provocative action,” said Crowley.

A senior official in South Korea’s ruling Grand National Party described the North’s attack on Yeonpyeong as “unforgivable,” but added it was too early to abandon hope of a diplomatic on a solution.

“North Korea has made some very serious mistakes,” Kyung Kyu Sang, a senior staff director of the party’s foreign affairs, trade and unification committee, told Global Post.

“We have reached out to help in the past, but North Korea has not responded. There are those who believe the North can only be changed by force, but we have to keep talking and search for compromise. But the South Korean people don’t feel in the mood to compromise.”

Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is on a “private” visit to the North, had described the situation as a “tinderbox,” and urged Pyongyang to allow today’s drills to proceed without retaliation. “I am urging them extreme restraint,” he said in an interview with CNN. “Let’s cool things down. No response. Let the exercises take place.

“My sense from the North Koreans is that they are trying to find ways to tamp this down. Maybe that will continue today. That’s my hope. There’s enormous potential for miscalculation,” said Richardson.

North Korea’s official media, meanwhile, accused its neighbor of ratcheting up tensions by conducting the live fire drills. In typically animated language, the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, said: “The South Korean puppet warmongers going in league with outside forces are getting ever more frantic in their moves for a war of aggression … pushing the situation to the brink of a war.”

In New York, the U.N. Security Council failed to produce a joint statement after China refused to condemn Pyongyang for this year’s attacks.

Wang Min, China's representative at the security council, described the situation on the Korean peninsula as “perilous.”

"If a bloody clash breaks out on the Korean peninsula, that would first of all hurt the people on both sides of the peninsula and bring a national tragedy of mutual fratricide between the compatriots in the North and South," the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, quoted him as saying.

"China strongly urges both sides of the Korean peninsula to remain calm, calm and calm again, and to exercise restraint, restraint, and restraint again.”