It also comes after the reported firing of North Korean artillery shells on Friday.
David Shear, the assistant secretary for Asia issues, says the exercise was temporarily halted so that the U.S. and South Korea could talk and coordinate over the recent exchange of artillery fire across the border.
Despite the announced talks, South Korea’s military remained on high alert, a defence official said, and the South has said it has no plans to halt the broadcasts.
Truckloads of soldiers singing martial songs can occasionally be seen driving around the city, and a single minivan with camouflage netting was parked near the main train station for a time as the talks with South Korea began Saturday and are set to resume later Sunday.
The North Korean People’s Army said late on Friday that its frontline troops had moved into a “fully armed, wartime state” in line with the wishes of Kim and in advance of Saturday’s 5pm deadline.
North Korea publicly confirmed by its state-run news media that the country was in talks with South Korea and used South Korea by the “Republic of Korea” instead of referring to it as it usually does – in a derogatory manner.
The first round of marathon talks, however, came to nothing, and as they prepared for a second session Sunday, it was still unclear whether diplomacy would defuse what has become the most serious confrontation on the Korean Peninsula in years. “He has the longest history, best idea of what Kim Jong Un and what he’s hoping to get out of it”, Professor David Kang of the University of Southern California’s Korean Studies Institute told CNN.
The saber rattling in the Korean Peninsula escalated Friday as the North threatened military action if South Korea does not stop blaring propaganda from speakers across the border by Saturday.
The U.S. and South Korea scrambled fighter jets in a show of force earlier on Saturday, while their top generals agreed in a phone call to respond “strongly” to any North Korean attack, according to Col. Jeon Ha Kyu, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. Seoul accused North Korea of laying the mines, which Pyongyang has denied.
The North Korean embassy in London said in a statement that the “psychological warfare” by the “puppet military gangsters” of the South was an “open act of war”. North Korea has denied the charge.
North Korea had previously given 48 hours to the South through a special military line phone in order to remove the loudspeaker that voiced anti-Pyongyang messages.
Pyongyang’s two negotiators made an unexpected visit to the South last October to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, where they met Kim Kwan-jin. Analysts had expected the current crisis eventually to wind down. “It is a breakthrough”.
The first high-level talks in almost a year between South Korea and North Korea have stretched into the early hours of Sunday.
But the tension represents a blow to South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s efforts to improve North-South ties, which have been virtually frozen since the deadly 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship.
Authoritarian North Korea, which has additionally restarted its personal propaganda broadcasts, is extraordinarily delicate to any criticism of its authorities.
Following the abandonment, North Korea later released one artillery fire. The South immediately fired back 29 rounds.