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After Azula's coup d'etat in Ba Sing Se the Fire Nation took over the Earth Kingdom and from there on behave like if it won the war (and the Team Avatar did so too, they stated something like Aang wants to beat the Fire Lord after Sozin's comet because the Fire Nation won the war).

However, the water tribes (at least the northern one) were still independent and at war with the Fire Nation. The Fire Nation had attempted to conquer the northern tribe unsuccessfully before. Why was the Fire Nation so indifferent towards the northern tribe after Ba Sing Se's conquest? I understand they didn't care about the southern tribe because they erased all the waterbenders there (except Katara and Hama). They also might not care about the foggy swamp because it's practically part of the (now fallen) Earth Kingdom. But why did they spare the Northen Water Tribe from then on, instead of avenging their humiliation from earlier, which would now be probably quite easy since they possess the Earth Kingdom (and its Dai Li)? Even when Sozin's comet was to come, the Fire Nation didn't seem to care about the water tribes, just the Earth Kingdom was to be attacked. The water tribes seem to play no role after the Earth Kingdom's conquest.

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That's because the Northern Water Tribe wasn't a real threat, The (broken yet still active) Earth Kingdom was.

In TLA we can see the entirety of the Northern Water Tribe which is practically speaking 1 city with probably some small settlements scattered across the North Pole. The Earth Kingdom on the other hand was by far the largest and militaristic enemy the fire nation has faced. (Seeing the air Benders did not have a standing Army as Aang mentioned while visiting a fire nation school).

Now compare both conflicts:

  • The Northern Water Tribe was stuck on the north pole in a pure defensive position. Sure the Fire Nation was unable to breach their defenses but they had them contained seeing the Northern Water Tribe was either unable or unwilling to launch a counter attack.
  • The Earth Kingdom still had (mostly)free reign across the largest landmass in the world (roughly 4 times the size of the Fire nation lands). And as seen in several episodes during the Ba Sing Se story arc they do have a capable military leadership and noteworthy standing army. If it weren't for the Dai Li meddling with the state affairs the Earth Kingdom might have been able to push back the Fire Nation.

This doesn't mean that the Northern Water Tribe would not eventually become a target, but until the Earth Kingdoms and, most importantly, it's people had been subdued it will be not their highest priority. This is because although the Earth Kingdom had been defeated by the fall of Ba-Sing Se it would not mean that the civilian population (or the military for that matter) would accept this. Seeing the Earth Nations culture this would probably create a warlord like state (like what happened after the Queen's death in Legend Of Korra). Without swift action these warlord states would become more organized and would probably eventually band together against the Fire Nation, making the fall of Ba Sing Se a hollow victory in the long run.

So yea, The Earth Kingdom was "officially" defeated the war would continue on against rebel (civilian) groups and former Military command chains in the form of warlords. Once these have been dealt with (using Sozin's comet to decimate any remaining resistance and breaking the rebellious spirit of the Earth Kingdom people), they would probably focus on the Northern Water Tribe. But until then the Northern Water Tribe and their defensive posture would not be a threat to the Fire Nation or it's policies.

The greatest Strength the Fire Nation had was it's unity. The entire nation fighting as one. While the Earth Kingdom, that although had a unifying government was fractured and disorganized with the Water Tribes even being separated. This gave the Fire nation opportunities to pick them off one by one. Launching another full scale attack on the Water Tribe might push them to unify more with the remnants of the Earth Kingdom(don't poke a sleeping bear when wrestling with an aligator).

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  • Thank you. I dunno much about Legend of Korra (have seen just the 1st season (air) once and 1 episode of the 2nd season). It's still a bit weird that the Team Avatar didn't bother about the north pole to be a likely target during Sozin's comet's return.
    – John
    Nov 23, 2020 at 15:10
  • @John This is because Zuko was part of the war council in which the decision was made to use the comet to destroy the earth Kingdom. After being frustrated with Aang not taking his firebending training seriously enough he reveals the plan to the team.
    – A.bakker
    Nov 23, 2020 at 15:15
  • Indeed, but this is where we learn that the team didn't want to fight the Fire Lord until the comet is gone. Before Zuko told them about the war council, the team assumed the global status quo will remain even after the comet's return.
    – John
    Nov 23, 2020 at 15:18
  • @John that's because the Team is still a bunch of kids, with Aang being pretty much a pacifist. They probably never considered that The Fire Nation would literally be willing to scorch the entire Earth Kingdom to ashes. But seeing Zuko knew for a fact they would would change the urgency of taking the Fire Lord down.
    – A.bakker
    Nov 23, 2020 at 15:22

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