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South Korea Pokes at North With Christmas Tree

Also, Bill Richardson: North has agreed to nuclear inspections
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2010 5:02 AM CST
Tensions Ease But S. Korea Fears Surprise Attack
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, left, speaks as he leaves Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, on Tuesday Dec. 21, 2010 wrapping up his visit to the communist nation.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, Gao Haorong)

(Newser) – The Korean peninsula was calmer today after the promised North Korean response to South Korean military exercises never materialized—though the South is braced for surprise attacks. It's also getting ready for the holidays: In a move expected to annoy North Korea, the South today lit a 100-foot tall steel Christmas tree visible from the other side of the Demilitarized Zone, the first time it has done so in 7 years. Marines have been placed on guard to safeguard the huge tree—seen by secular North Korea as a propaganda move—as it's within range of North Korean gunfire.

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In other-side-of-the-border news, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, on an unofficial visit to North Korea, says the country has agreed to let inspectors visit its uranium enrichment facilities, CNN reports. "I am encouraged by the news that North Korea will not react militarily to South Korea's drills," Richardson said. "During my meetings in Pyongyang, I repeatedly pressed North Korea not to retaliate." State Department officials, however, are skeptical. "North Korea talks a great game. They always do," a spokesman said. "The real issue is what will they do."
(Read more North Korea stories.)

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