North and South Korea talks over border dispute stretch into third day | News | DW | 24.08.2015
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North and South Korea talks over border dispute stretch into third day

Talks between North and South Korea over a border dispute have continued overnight into a third day. But South Korea's military has reported indications of ongoing battle preparations in the North.

The talks between high-level negotiators from Seoul and Pyongyang being held at the Panmunjom truce village inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) have continued through Sunday night and into Monday morning.

The delegates were "continuing talks for long hours in the midst of the critical situation" on the peninsula, Min Kyung-wook, a spokesman for South Korea's President Park Geun-hye said on Monday. No further details were offered.

At issue is a South Korean demand that the North apologize for what Seoul says was a land mine attack that maimed two South Korean soldiers. President Park said on Monday it was important for North Korea to apologize over the landmines.

Park added that propaganda broadcasts from the South side of the border would continue until the apology was made. North Korea has demanded the broadcasts stop.

The negotiations are the highest-level talks between the two Koreas in a year. Delegates from South Korea are presidential national security director Kim Kwan-jin and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo.

From the North, Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer for the Korean People's Army, and Kim Yang Gon, a senior North Korean official responsible for South Korean affairs are present.

Hwang is regarded by commentators as North Korea's second most important official after supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

But despite the talks, North Korea had deployed twice the usual artillery strength at the border, the South's defense ministry said on Sunday. More than 50 submarines and undersea vehicles were away from base, the ministry added.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Monday that North Korea had deployed ten hovercraft about 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of the sea boundary between the two states.

Tensions

Tensions rose when South Korean soldiers were injured in landmine explosions at the border. The North denied it was responsible for the mines. Last Thursday the North fired four shells into the South, which then responded with the firing of 29 artillery rounds.

It was in retaliation for the blasts that Seoul began the propaganda which are sent in three-hour blasts from eleven banks of loudspeakers. They include news reports and K-pop music. The use of loud sound was used as a tactic by both sides until 2004.

North Korea declared a "quasi-state of war" in front-line areas and set an ultimatum for Seoul to halt its broadcasts by Saturday afternoon. It was just as the deadline fell that the talks between the two sides began.

The United States has 28,500 soldiers based in South Korea. It is currently conducting annual joint military exercises with the South. North Korea regards the manoeuvres as a preparation for war.

In Pyongyang, North Korean state media reported that more than a million young people have volunteered to join or rejoin the military in the event of conflict.

jm/bw (AP, Reuters)

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