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With force deployments, North Korea raises stakes of talks with South

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea had deployed twice as many artillery pieces as usual along the border with South Korea on Sunday, and most of its submarines had departed from their bases, as the two Koreas held a second day of talks to try to break a tense military standoff, officials said.

Negotiators from both sides resumed talks in the border village of Panmunjom on Sunday afternoon after a marathon overnight meeting failed to reach a compromise over the terms under which South Korea would withdraw 11 batteries of propaganda loudspeakers from the border. The North calls the broadcasts, which include criticism of its political system and its leader, Kim Jong Un, an "act of war."

As the negotiators haggled, the North raised the stakes by moving more artillery forces to the front line, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity.

"We have also detected 70 percent of the North Korean submarines missing from their bases, and we are looking for their whereabouts," he said. "This is a typical North Korean tactic of talking on one hand and brandishing military power on the other to try to force their way."

South Korea has been particularly sensitive about North Korean submarines after 46 sailors were killed in 2010 in the sinking of a South Korean navy ship, which the South attributed to a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine.

The militaries of both Koreas have been on heightened alert since they exchanged artillery fire Thursday in a dispute over the loudspeakers. Although no casualties were reported, the clash was the most serious in five years.

Before the talks began, the two sides had sounded as if they were about to clash militarily. The North put its front-line units on a "semi-war" footing, ordering them to be ready to launch "strong military action," including attacks on the loudspeakers, unless South Korea removed the speakers by 5 p.m. on Saturday.

"What we see is the two Koreas challenging each other's nerve, going soft and tough at the same time," said Lee Byong-chul, a senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul, the South Korean capital.

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