South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has announced the country’s cross-border propaganda broadcasts will continue until Pyongyang apologizes for landmines that injured two South Korean soldiers.
North Korea has threatened to use force to stop the broadcasts, ratcheting up tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
High-level talks to resolve the issue went through a second night on August 23.
Both Korea’s militaries are on alert after a brief exchange of fire at the border on August 20.
North Korea denies laying the landmines which maimed the soldiers earlier this month as they were patrolling the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the heavily fortified border.
It also denies shelling South Korea on August 20, an incident which prompted return artillery fire from the South.
“We need a clear apology and measures to prevent a recurrence of these provocations and tense situations,” said President Park Geun-hye according to a statement released by her office.
“Otherwise, this government will take appropriate steps and continue loudspeaker broadcasts.”
South Korea resumed the propaganda broadcasts along the DMZ earlier this month, after an 11-year hiatus, in apparent retaliation for the landmine attack.
The talks that began on August 22 in the abandoned “truce village” of Panmunjom inside the DMZ have, for the time being, subdued heated rhetoric of imminent war.
South Korea is represented by national security adviser Kim Kwan-jin and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo, while the North has sent senior officials Kim Yong-gon and Hwang Pyong-so, who is seen by many analysts as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s second-in-command.
However, South Korea’s military had said that most of North Korea’s submarines appeared to be away from their bases, and amphibious landing vessels had been deployed to the border, the Yonhap news agency reports.
On August 21, North Korea ordered its troops to be “on a war footing”.
South Korea has evacuated almost 4,000 residents from border areas and warned that it would “retaliate harshly” to any acts of aggression.
In 2004, the two Koreas reached an agreement to dismantle their propaganda loudspeakers at the border.
Kim Jong-un has ordered the North Korean frontline troops to be on a war footing after an exchange of fire with South Korea across their heavily fortified border, state media reports.
The North Korean leader declared a “semi-state of war” at an emergency meeting on August 20, the KCN reports.
North Korea threatened action unless Seoul ends its anti-Pyongyang border broadcasts.
The secretive country often uses fierce rhetoric when tensions rise and it has made similar declarations before.
At the emergency meeting of the central military commission, Kim Jong-un had ordered that troops be “fully ready for any military operations at any time” from August 21 at 17:00 local time, the KCNA reports.
Earlier, North Korea warned that it would take strong military action if South Korea does not end border propaganda broadcasts and dismantles the broadcast facilities “within 48 hours”.
However, in a separate letter Pyongyang said it was willing to resolve the issue even though it considers the broadcasts a declaration of war, South Korea’s unification ministry said, according to Reuters.
The tensions were ratcheted up after North Korea on August 20 shelled across the border reportedly to protest against the propaganda broadcasts which restarted after a hiatus of 11 years.
In 2004, South Korea and North Korea reached an agreement to dismantle their propaganda loudspeakers at the border.
The broadcasts were part of a program of psychological warfare, according to South Korean newspaper Korea Times, to deliver outside news so that North Korean soldiers and border-area residents could hear it.
On August 10, South Korea restarted broadcasting in an apparent reaction to two South Korean soldiers being injured in a landmine explosion in the demilitarized zone that was blamed on North Korea.
Military authorities say days later North Korea also restarted its broadcasting of anti-South propaganda.
However, some reports said that the quality of the North Korean loudspeakers is so bad that it is difficult to understand what they are saying.
South Korea responded with artillery fire. There were no reported casualties.
Meanwhile, South Korea ordered the evacuation of residents from an area of its western border.
South Korea and the US also began annual joint military exercises on August 17 – they describe the drills as defensive, but North Korea calls them a rehearsal for invasion.