Senior officials from North and South Korea have resumed a second round of talks that temporarily pushed aside vows of imminent war on the peninsula.
South Korea’s pro-democracy broadcasts, via loud speakers across the border with the North, restarted after the two South Korean soldiers were wounded by landmines.
“The south Korean puppet warmongers ran amuck for confrontation, firing shells to the area of the DPRK’s side”, read one line from an official KCNA report dated Sunday, which used an acronym for North Korea’s official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Pyongyang denied involvement but Seoul retaliated by resuming loudspeaker propaganda broadcast hated by the North along the border on August 10.
South Korean Vice Defence Minister Baek Seung-joo said on Friday Seoul expected North Korea to fire at some of the 11 sites where it has set up loudspeakers. Some experts say that North Korea has been overwhelmed by the South’s counter actions.
South Korea and its ally the United States earlier dispatched four F-15 and four F-15K jets to simulate attacks on enemy targets, according to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
“The fact that these powerful officials who represent South and North Korea’s leaders are meeting means this is a great time to turn the crisis into opportunity”, Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
The latest session came as more than 50 North Korean submarines apparently left their bases for unknown locations, fueling speculation that the North could be gearing up for a surprise attack in case the talks collapse.
North Korea had earlier issued a deadline for the dismantling of banks of loudspeakers, which have been blasting news bulletins, weather forecasts and music from the South. It had moved artillery into positions to fire on them.
North Korea and South Korea have remained technically in a state of war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and inter-Korean relations have been in a deep freeze since the deadly 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship. North Korea had declared that its frontline troops were in full war readiness and prepared to go to battle if Seoul did not back down. Analysts in Seoul also believe the North fears that the South’s broadcasts could demoralize its front-line troops and inspire them to defect. Truckloads of soldiers singing martial songs could 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 the South went on.
Despite such highly charged rhetoric in the media, which is itself not particularly unusual, activity in the capital remains normal and calm Sunday.
People were willing to talk about the tension and, as is common in public in North Korea, they voiced support for their government’s policies and their leader.
The North’s conflicting signals underscored challenges in dealing with an unpredictable communist country, which has a track record of staging provocations against South Korea.