South Korea says it fired ‘warning shots’ after North Korean soldiers crossed border

South Korea’s military has said it fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the border this week, amid rising tensions after Pyongyang sent rubbish-carrying balloons into the South and Seoul retaliated with a loudspeaker propaganda campaign.

“Some North Korean soldiers working within the DMZ on the central front briefly crossed the Military Demarcation Line,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff [JCS] said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to the line of control in the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas.

“After our military issued warning broadcasts and warning shots, they retreated northward,” it said, adding the incident happened 9 June.

“Apart from the immediate retreat of the North Korean soldiers following our warning shots, there were no unusual movements observed”, the JCS said, adding the military was closely monitoring troops near the border.

South Korea’s military has assessed that the North Korean soldiers didn’t appear to have intentionally crossed the border because the site is a wooded area and MDL signs there weren’t clearly visible, JCS spokesperson Lee Sung Joon told reporters.

The mine-strewn DMZ is the world’s most heavily armed border, with hundreds of thousands of troops facing each other – a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended with an armistice but not a peace treaty.

Tensions between the two Koreas – which remain technically at war – are at one of their highest points in years.

In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons laden with cigarette butts, manure and toilet paper south of the border in what it calls retaliation for balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda sent by activists in the South.

The South Korean government this month fully suspended a 2018 military deal and restarted loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border in response to the balloons, infuriating the North, which warned Seoul was creating “a new crisis”.

South Korea’s military said on Monday it had detected signs the North was installing its own loudspeakers.

North Korea had used loudspeakers along the border since the 1960s, typically broadcasting praise of the Kim family, but suspended their use in 2018 as ties improved.

Experts have warned that the decision to jettison the 2018 deal and restart loudspeaker broadcasts could have serious implications.

Previous propaganda tit-for-tat actions have had real-world consequences for inter-Korean relations.

In 2020, Pyongyang, blaming anti-North leaflets, unilaterally cut off all official military and political communication links with the South and blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border.

With Agence France-Presse and Associated Press

The Guardian

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