The North is known to have around 70 submarines.
South and North Korea resumed rare high-level talks Sunday on defusing heightened tensions, an official said, as Pyongyang appears to be gearing up for possible strikes against Seoul.
The talks are under way between South Korea’s National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin and Hwang Pyong-so, the North Korean military’s top political officer, at the border village of Panmunjom that separates the two Koreas, a South Korean presidential official said. Hong Yong-pyo, Seoul’s point man on Pyongyang, and his northern counterpart, Kim Yang-gon, joined the talks.
The top officials resumed the talks more than 13 hours after they paused the session to “review each other’s position.” On Saturday, the two sides had marathon negotiations through early Sunday morning to discuss how to resolve the crisis and how to improve inter-Korean relations.
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.
“Seventy percent of North Korea’s submarines left their bases, and their locations are not confirmed,” the South Korean military official told reporters.
North Korea has also doubled the number of its artillery troops on the border, with the command to be combat-ready, according to South Korea’s military.
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.
On Thursday, North Korea gave a 48-hour ultimatum for South Korea to end propaganda broadcasts along the heavily fortified border and dismantle all loudspeakers, saying it otherwise will launch “strong military action.”
North Korea also warned Friday that it is prepared to engage in “all-out war.” The Pyongyang-set deadline for defusing the crisis passed without a military clash.
Propaganda broadcasts have become a bone of contention between the two Koreas after South Korea resumed them earlier this month for the first time in 11 years.
US envoy cuts short vacation
Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, has cut short a trip to his homeland for vacation amid heightened tensions on the peninsula, a diplomatic source said Sunday.
Lippert left Seoul in mid-August and he was initially scheduled to return here on Aug. 27.
But he came back to Seoul on Sunday, according to the source. The exact reason for his decision has not been formally announced. (From Yonhap News Agency)