SEOUL — Communist North Korea sent patrol boats across a disputed sea border Saturday after threatening to attack South Korean warships in contested waters of the Yellow Sea.
The American-led U.N. Command, which oversees the fragile truce between the two bitter rivals, urged North Korea on Saturday--for a third time in a week--to hold a border military meeting to end the standoff.
"It's in everyone's interest to reduce tensions," said command spokesman Col. Carl Kropf. The North has rejected two previous appeals.
The armed standoff in the Cold War's last flash point entered its fifth day Saturday, with the two Koreas hardening their stances after their ships nearly opened fire Friday.
North Korea warned South Korea that it must withdraw its warships from the area, a rich fishing ground, or face military strikes.
South Korea canceled weekend leaves for soldiers and massed more destroyers, frigates and even landing ships near the area and put its 650,000 military on heightened alert.
Three to six North Korean patrol boats returned and sailed in and out of the disputed area Saturday in choppy waters off the west coast.
The Defense Ministry released video footage of South Korean ships moving in sudden, threatening spurts near the intruders.
The disputed waters lie south of a U.N.-imposed sea border, midway between the North Korean mainland and five South Korean islands.