North and South Korean officials resumed marathon talks Sunday afternoon and continued deep into the night in an urgent bid to avert war on the peninsula.
Officials have not publicly commented on the discussions, and there is no word on whether the negotiations are making any progress, or how long they will continue.
However, as the talks started up again Sunday, South Korea reported unusual troop and submarine movement in the North.
Pyongyang has moved 70 percent of its submarines away from their bases and the vessels are now undetectable, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry. A ministry spokesman characterized the movement as «unprecedented.»
The North has also doubled its frontline artillery strength at the border with the South, according to South Korea.
«It seems that the North is pursuing dialogue on the one side and preparing for battle on another side,» a South Korean Defense Ministry official said.
The high-level meetings are taking place at the Panmunjom truce village despite a deadline set by Pyongyang, which had threatened military action unless Seoul ended propaganda broadcasts into the communist North and removed banks of loudspeakers it has installed along the border.
The deadline passed without incident – and without the loudspeakers’ removal – and the talks began 90 minutes later, at 6 p.m. local time (0900 UTC).
In Washington, White House officials said President Barack Obama has been kept up to date on the situation in the Korean Peninsula.
«As the State Department has said,» a spokesman commented, «we remain steadfast in our commitment to our alliance with South Korea, with whom we will continue to coordinate closely.»
Even without concrete results, analysts say the talks have delayed any further military activity and given the two Koreas added time to look for a peaceful end to the current crisis.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry has said it will not end its cross-border audio broadcasts into the North until Pyongyang takes responsibility for recent attacks, punishes those responsible and takes action to prevent further provocations.
Despite the high level dialogue, the potential for escalation or miscalculation remains, since both sides are in a state of maximum defense preparedness, ready for the possibility of a major military confrontation.
A landmine explosion in the DMZ that wounded two South Korean soldiers on August 4 triggered the current crisis. Seoul accused Pyongyang of planting the explosive devices and restarted cross-border broadcasts denouncing North Korea for the first time in over 10 years.
On Thursday the North attacked a loudspeaker tower in the DMZ with artillery shells, and the South responded with multiple rounds of artillery fire. No damages or casualties were reported, and the North has disclaimed any involvement in either incident.