August 21, 2015 09:16
The two Koreas exchanged fire across the border on Thursday in one of the tensest standoffs since the North shelled the island of Yeonpyeong five years ago.
The North fired anti-aircraft guns and direct-fire weapons at new South Korean loudspeakers that are blasting propaganda across the demilitarized zone. South Korea retaliated by lobbing 155 mm howitzer rounds into the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone.
Joint Chief of Staff spokesman Col. Jeon Ha-kyu told reporters, "The North Korean military staged two rounds of firearm provocations in the southern part of the Military Demarcation Line and the South fired dozens of rounds of a 155 mm self-propelled gun as warning shots."
The JCS said the North fired the rounds around 4 p.m. but they hit several kilometers away from the South Korean loudspeakers.
Seoul retaliated by firing 29 rounds toward the North Korean side of the DMZ but did not strike at the source of the attacks as it had vowed to do.
South Korea suffered no damage to materiel and personnel, while it remains unclear if the North sustained any damage.
The Unification Ministry said the North Korean Workers Party made a phone call through an established channel at 4:50 p.m. urging Seoul to halt the propaganda broadcasts. The North claimed the propaganda broadcasts are "declarations of war" and added that Pyongyang was willing to work to "resolve the current situation and open channels to improve relations."
But in another message at 5 p.m. the North Korean People's Armed Forces sent another message demanding that the South halt propaganda broadcasts within 48 hours and dismantle the loudspeakers or face further military action.
A government official said North Korea is trying to shift the focus from the incident that prompted the resumption of propaganda broadcasts -- the serious maiming of two South Korean soldiers by box mines planted along their patrol route in the DMZ.
The government here warned of "stern measures" in the event of further provocations.
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