May 04, 2020 09:41
North Korean border guards fired at a South Korean guard post in thick fog in the demilitarized zone in Gangwon Province on Sunday morning.
South Korean border guards fired two salvoes of warning shots in response, but an Army spokesman here said the North Korean guards probably fired their guns accidentally and did not see what they were shooting at.
The fresh exchange of fire between the neighbors, who remain technically at war since the armistice 67 years ago, came only a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reemerged in public, dispelling rumors of his demise.
It was the first military provocation in the DMZ by North Korean border guards since October 2014 and violated an inter-Korean military pact from September 2018 to cease all hostilities in the border area.
A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff here said several bullets were fired at the South Korean guard post on the frontline around 7:41 a.m. A South Korean sentry found four bullet marks and slugs on the wall of the guard post. Nobody was injured and no other equipment damaged.
South Korean soldiers shot back two salvoes of 10 warning shots and broadcast a warning to the North Korean side. South Korea also sent a fax to the North demanding an explanation, but there was no response.
The Defense Ministry here said the gunshots were a violation of the military pact, but a senior officer told reporters there was "a low possibility of a deliberate provocation."
He added the shots were fired in the early morning, when North Korean guards typically check their guns and may have been accidental since visibility was so low. He added that farmers on the North Korean side continued to go about their business as if nothing had happened and there were no unusual military movements there at the time.
"The North had little reason for a provocation since the South Korean guard post that was shot at has the advantage of terrain," he added.
But there was some grumbling in the ranks. "I don't understand why military authorities tried to defend the North Korean provocation when the North didn't even say that it was unintentional," an officer in the frontline area said.
"It's possible that the provocation was accidental, but there is a possibility of a deliberate provocation unless there is an explanation from the North," said Shin Jong-woo at the Korea Defense and Security Forum.
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