Tensions Palpable at Inter-Korean Border Crossing

      June 10, 2016 09:15

      The Joint Security Area of the border truce village of Panmunjom was ringing with muffled North Korean propaganda broadcasts on Wednesday as tensions remained high along the inter-Korean border.

      Reporters were given a tour of the JSA at the invitation of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. The South plays no propaganda broadcasts in the JSA, but a North Korean announcer could be heard apparently denouncing South Korea, though it was difficult to understand what she was saying due to the poor quality of the loudspeakers.

      South Korea stepped up propaganda broadcasts elsewhere along the border after North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test and the North has been retaliating with its own.

      Soldiers stand in the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas on Wednesday. /Courtesy of South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command

      But in the JSA North and South Korean soldiers stand within arm's reach of each other, and physical clashes erupted there in the past. In 1984, a shootout erupted after a Soviet diplomat touring Panmunjom suddenly crossed over the military demarcation line, prompting North Korean soldiers to chase after him into the South Korean side of the DMZ.

      The ensuing firefight resulted in the deaths of one South Korean and three North Korean soldiers.

      Afterwards the South installed electronic equipment in the JSA to detect North Korean troop movements around the clock.

      "Things may look calm on the outside, but tensions are always high here," Lt. Col. Kwon Young-hwan in the JSA said. "We're constantly monitoring whether North Korea is abiding by the terms of the ceasefire agreement."

      The two Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended only in a ceasefire.

      Gen. Vincent Brooks, the new commander of U.S. Forces Korea, visited the JSA after assuming his new post last month and told reporters Wednesday that the threat facing the Korean Peninsula can be "clearly felt" there.

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