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(2nd LD) N. Korea deploys about 20 air-cushion landing crafts in Yellow Sea border

All Headlines 17:07 August 24, 2015

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead: UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has deployed about 20 air-cushioned landing crafts near the inter-Korean sea border as the country ratcheted up its combat readiness despite on-going talks with the South to defuse military tension, military sources said Monday.

About 20 North Korean air-cushioned landing ships have left their home base in the northwestern coastal district Cholsan and come forward to the waters close to Nampo, a port city located far south, the sources said.

Some of the ships are seen moving farther south to reach the Goampo naval base, located about 60 kilometers above the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, the de facto inter-Korean sea border, the sources said.

"Since North Korea declared a semi-war state, its infiltration vehicles and forces have been actively moving," one of the sources said.

North Korea has two types of air-cushioned boats. One is the 35-ton class Gongbang II that can travel at a speed between 74-96 kmph, and the other is the 20-ton class Gongbang III that can travel up to 96 kmph.

With the mission to transport special infiltration forces ashore, the air-cushioned vehicle is one of North Korea's three core infiltration assets.

"Air-cushioned ships are a means of infiltration which moves on the back of escort support from other naval vessels," one of the sources said. The country may have also put escort vessels into operations as part of the deployment, the source said.

The North has also deployed the other two infiltration forces -- about 50 submarines and special artillery troops -- near the border as the country followed the quasi-war declaration up with a tougher combat readiness posture.

On Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared a "quasi-state of war," threatening that the country is prepared to go to "all-out war" as inter-Korean military tension has escalated after the two countries exchanged artillery shells over the border a day earlier.

As the countries were brought to the brink of a military confrontation, the two Koreas launched rare high-level government talks Saturday to defuse the situation, with no major progress having been reported so far.

While the talks continued, the North Korean army has leveled up its combat readiness to match the intensity required under the manual of a semi-war state, one of the sources said.

"Since the North declared a quasi-war condition, every move of the North Korean army is being detected by the joint surveillance assets of South Korea and the United States," another source said.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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