As Korean peace talks extended to Monday with no sign of agreement at the truce village Panmunjom, South Korean President Park Geun-hye demanded an apology from North over a recent landmine incident, Yonhap reports.
Park said anti-North propaganda broadcasts would continue unless Pyongyang took responsibility for landmine explosions early this month that wounded two South Korean soldiers in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two countries.
“We need a clear apology and measures to prevent a recurrence of these provocations and tense situations,” Park told a meeting with her top aides. “Otherwise, this government will take appropriate steps and continue loudspeaker broadcasts.”
Adding to the tensions came a report that North Korea has deployed more than 50 submarines and 10 amphibious landing crafts carrying special forces.
About 10 North Korean air-cushioned landing crafts have left their home base in Cholsan, North Pyongan Province, and come forward to a naval base, located about 60 kilometers north of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea.
More than 50 North Korean submarines too apparently left their bases for unknown locations.
“Seventy percent of North Korea’s submarines left their bases, and their locations are not confirmed,” a military official told reporters.
The North is known to have around 70 submarines.
While the North moves around submarines and artillery units, South Korean and US fighter jets have been carrying out simulated bombing sorties not far from the border.
“The North is adopting a two-faced stance with the talks going on,” said a South Korean ministry spokesman who described the scale of the submarine movement as “unprecedented”.
“We take the situation very seriously,” he added.
Analysts say the North will never apologise for the mine blasts, while South Korea will reject any compromise that may be seen to reward Pyongyang’s belligerence.
“The two sides may be able to come up with a statement in which some sort of ‘regret’ is expressed without explicitly naming the North,” said Jeung Young-Tae, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.
“But I don’t think such a vague statement will work this time,” Jeung said, stressing that the case of the maimed soldiers — both of whom lost legs — had become an emotional issue in the South.
“So I think the best outcome of this meeting will be an agreement for another high-level meeting in the future, such as defence ministerial talks,” he added.
North Korea lashed out at South Korea on Monday, blaming it for high tensions on the Korean Peninsula as marathon talks aimed at defusing the situation continued for a third day.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, claimed in an editorial that the South drove the political situation on the peninsula to dangerous levels under a deliberate plan with the U.S. to invade the communist country, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.
In a separate editorial also carried by the same paper, the North insisted that the South fabricated this month’s landmine explosion and artillery exchange to prepare for war with the North.
“The editorial said that the puppets’ confrontational mental illness has completely reached the late stage,” said the KCNA dispatch, citing that South Korea has placed all government offices under emergency alert mode and banned military personnel from leaving their premises.
S. Korea, US mulling timing of bomber deployment
South Korea and the United States appear to be in discussion over the timing of a U.S. B-52 strategic bomber and a nuclear-armed submarine’s deployment to South Korea, the Defense Ministry said Monday.
“Keeping close tabs on the crisis situation on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea and the U.S. are flexibly reviewing the timing of the deployment of strategic U.S. military assets,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a regular briefing.
He did not pinpoint the kind of U.S. assets under consideration, but sources have said they might include the B-52 Stratofortress, which is equipped with bunker-buster bombs, and a nuclear-powered submarine currently stationed in Japan’s Yokosuka.
The allies have often deployed powerful warships and fighter bombers like the nuclear USS George Washington aircraft carrier and the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet in a show of force against North Korea’s major provocations in the past, including when the North shelled the South Korean front-line island of Yeongpyeong in 2010.
Such actions by the allies had prompted wild protest from the North.
“Our initial concept against North Korea’s provocations is deterrence,” Kim said of the potential deployment action. “The South Korean and U.S. militaries are in principle to deter North Korea from making provocations through their combined efforts.”