Seoul: North Korea has declared a no-sail zone off its west coast, indicating it may be readying to test-launch missiles in the area, South Korean news broadcaster YTN on Tuesday quoted a military official as saying.
The area is near a contested sea border with the South that was the site of a brief naval clash in November between the states, technically still at war that left a South Korean ship pockmarked with bullet holes and a North Korean vessel limping back to port in flames.
About a month before that clash, North Korea rattled regional security by firing short-range missiles off its east coast.
"We are closely monitoring the area to inspect whether this announcement was made as a part of their winter training or to launch short-range missiles," the unnamed official told YTN.
South Korean military officials said they were checking on the YTN report.
Destitute North Korea in recent weeks has signalled that it is ready to reduce the security threat it poses to economically vital North Asia by saying it could end its year-long boycott of international nuclear disarmament talks.
Analysts said the latest moves may be an attempt by Pyongyang to increase its leverage and win concessions to lure it back to the table in the disarmament-for-aid talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.