Wed, Aug 02, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Koreas trade fire across DMZ

PARTING SHOTS North and South Korean guards exchanged shots across the heavily fortified border on Monday as relations between the two nations continued to worsen

AGENCIES , SEOUL

Border guards on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that divides North from South Korea exchanged fire, but there was no report of South Korean casualties, the military said yesterday.

North Korean troops fired two shots at a South Korean guard post near the demilitarized zone late on Monday and South Korean troops returned six shots, an official said by telephone.

"No one was injured in the incident," the Joint Chiefs of Staff official said referring to South Korean troops. There was no word if any North Korean soldiers were hurt.

The Joint Chiefs issued a statement saying the UN Command Military Armistice Commission, which monitors the truce between the two countries still technically at war, will look into the border skirmish.

One of the shots hit the guard post, causing South Korean troops to immediately return fire, the official said.

Ties between the two Koreas had been warming in recent years as they reached a number of agreements on economic cooperation and military confidence building.

The last time there was an exchange of gunfire along the DMZ was in October last year, the official said, when North Korea fired a bullet toward a South Korean guard post and the South returned fire.

The two had a major naval clash along a disputed maritime border in 2002, resulting in deaths and casualties on both sides.

MISSILE TESTS

North Korea defied international warnings and test-fired seven missiles about a month ago.

At an inter-Korean ministerial meeting in July, Seoul pressed Pyongyang to explain why it had launched the missiles. Seoul said it would suspend food aid until Pyongyang returned to stalled six-country talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

North Korean delegates stormed out of the meeting and said the South would "pay a price" for spoiling inter-Korean ties.

Since then, North Korea has halted several projects with the South, including the reunion of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Yesterday, North Korea said it would be difficult to hold a joint ceremony to mark the Aug. 15, 1945 anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule over the peninsula due to recent flooding, a South Korean committee preparing for the event said.

North Korea has stationed most of its 1.2 million-man army near the DMZ. South Korea has more than 650,000 troops, who are supported by about 30,000 US troops.

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