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North Korea launches landing craft towards border with South as crisis continues to escalate

Published 24/08/2015

South Korean soldiers stand guard on Unification Bridge, which leads to the demilitarised zone (AP)
South Korean soldiers stand guard on Unification Bridge, which leads to the demilitarised zone (AP)

North Korea has deployed amphibious landing craft to its frontline with South Korea, the clearest indication yet that it is preparing for an invasion.

South Korean military sources told the Yonhap news agency that around 20 air-cushioned landing ships had departed from their base and travelled within a short distance of the two countries' Yellow Sea border.

The latest show of strength after Kim Jong-un declared a "quasi-state of war", it follows reports that the North has deployed its two other core tools of "infiltration" - special artillery troops and a flotilla of around 50 submarines.

South Korea has itself taken a hard line in ongoing negotiations between the two sides, after a land mine attack on loudspeakers broadcasting anti-North Korea propaganda maimed two South Korea soldiers.

President Park Geun-hye said that without a clear apology for the incident, the cross-border broadcasts would continue.

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Seoul to halt broadcasts as North Korea 'regrets' mine blast casualties  

North Korea has denied it laid the mines in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two countries.

But its state media has continued to deploy fierce anti-South rhetoric as relations have deteriorated. The KCNA news agency said one million young people had signed up to express their willingness to join or rejoin the armed forces.

Amid the claims of mobilisation and public warnings, peace talks behind the scenes have continued to take place.

South Korean (bottom) and North Korean (top) guard posts are seen on either side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. AFP/Getty Images
South Korean (bottom) and North Korean (top) guard posts are seen on either side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. AFP/Getty Images
Anti-North Korean activists holds signs and shout slogans against the North as they stand on the Unification Bridge that leads to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. AFP PHOTO / Ed JonesED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-North Korean activists holds signs of the North's leader, Kim Jong-Un (C), as they stand on the Unification Bridge that leads to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. AFP PHOTO / Ed JonesED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
Television crews gather at a checkpoint on the Unification Bridge that leads to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 23, 2015. North and South Korea resumed top-level talks on August 23 on avoiding a threatened military clash, even as Seoul accused Pyongyang of undermining the process with provocative naval and land deployments. AFP PHOTO / Ed JonesED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
PANMUNJON, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 22: In this handout image provided by South Korean Unification Ministry, South Korean National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-Jin (R), South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-Pyo (2nd R), Kim Yang-Gon (2nd L), the top North Korean official in charge of inter-Korean affairs, and Hwang Pyong-So (L) the North Korean military's top political officer, shake hands during the inter-Korean high-level talks at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone on August 22, 2015. (Photo by South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images)
South Korean soldiers ride military trucks on the road leading to the truce village of Panmunjom in the border city of Paju on August 23, 2015. North and South Korea resumed top-level crisis talks on August 23 on avoiding a threatened military clash, even as Seoul accused Pyongyang of undermining the process with renewed naval and land deployments. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES NO INTERNET RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE AFP PHOTO / YONHAPYONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
South Korean Marines patrol on the South-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea at dawn on August 23, 2015. North and South Korea agreed to a second round of talks on August 23 after marathon, night-long negotiations fell short of resolving a crisis that has pushed them to the brink of armed conflict. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES NO INTERNET RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE AFP PHOTO / YONHAPYONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
South Korean marines patrol along on Yeonpyeong island, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Senior officials from North and South Korea resumed a second round of talks on Sunday that temporarily pushed aside vows of imminent war on the peninsula. South Korea's presidential office said the talks restarted in the border village of Panmunjom. The delegates failed to reach an agreement in Saturday's marathon talks that stretched into the early hours of Sunday, and it was still unclear whether diplomacy would defuse what has become the most serious confrontation in years. (Yun Tae-hyun/ Yonhap via AP) KOREA OUT
South Korean soldiers ride military trucks on the road leading to the truce village of Panmunjom in the border city of Paju on August 23, 2015. North and South Korea resumed top-level crisis talks on August 23 on avoiding a threatened military clash, even as Seoul accused Pyongyang of undermining the process with renewed naval and land deployments. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES NO INTERNET RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE AFP PHOTO / YONHAPYONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
A South Korean Army multiple rocket launch system is set in the border county of Yeoncheon, northeast of Seoul, on August 23, 2015. North and South Korea agreed to a second round of talks on August 23 after marathon, night-long negotiations fell short of resolving a crisis that has pushed them to the brink of armed conflict. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES NO INTERNET RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE AFP PHOTO / YONHAPYONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
A South Korean amy soldier walks as his colleague soldiers stand guard on Unification Bridge, which leads to the demilitarized zone, near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. The first high-level talks in nearly a year between South Korea and North Korea were adjourned after stretching into the early hours of Sunday, as the rivals looked to defuse mounting tensions that have pushed them to the brink of a possible military confrontation. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A South Korean Army multiple rocket launch system is set in the border county of Yeoncheon, northeast of Seoul, on August 23, 2015. North and South Korea agreed to a second round of talks on August 23 after marathon, night-long negotiations fell short of resolving a crisis that has pushed them to the brink of armed conflict. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES NO INTERNET RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE AFP PHOTO / YONHAPYONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
South Korean army soldiers ride on a truck in Paju, south of the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Marathon negotiations by senior officials from the Koreas stretched into a third day on Monday as the rivals tried to pull back from the brink. South Korea's military, meanwhile, said North Korea continued to prepare for a fight, moving unusual numbers of troops, hovercraft and submarines to the border. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean soldiers ride military trucks on the road leading to the truce village of Panmunjom in the border city of Paju on August 23, 2015. North and South Korea resumed top-level crisis talks on August 23 on avoiding a threatened military clash, even as Seoul accused Pyongyang of undermining the process with renewed naval and land deployments. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES NO INTERNET RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE AFP PHOTO / YONHAPYONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-North Korean activists shout slogans as they protest on the Unification Bridge that leads to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. AFP PHOTO / Ed JonesED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-North Korean activists (C) struggle with police as they protest on the Unification Bridge that leads to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. AFP PHOTO / Ed JonesED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
A North Korean soldier stands outside a guard post, seen from the South side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT NO ARCHIVES RESTRICTED TO SUBSCRIPTION USE AFP PHOTO / YONHAPYONHAP/AFP/Getty Images
South Korea soldiers stand on the Unification Bridge that leads to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in Paju on August 24, 2015. South Korea's president hardened her line with North Korea on August 24, demanding an unequivocal apology for recent provocations as the two rivals struggled to negotiate their way out of a dangerous military standoff. AFP PHOTO / Ed JonesED JONES/AFP/Getty Images

Negotiations being held at a border village of Panmunjom began on Saturday evening, broke up before dawn on Sunday and then restarted later that afternoon.

Chung Young-chul, a North Korea expert at Sogang University in Seoul, told the Reuters news agency the South Korean president's strong statement did not bode well for the peace talks.

"I am not really optimistic about the talks because they both have heavy demands that can't be dropped," Chung said. "It seems difficult to get any agreement and I think they are locking horns and tension will persist for a while."

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