Tuesday, August 01, 2006

YONHAP NEWS--Koreas exchange fire along DMZ


SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- Border guards of the two Koreas briefly traded fire Monday but there were no South Korean casualties, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Tuesday.

The shootout occurred around 7:35 p.m. in Yanggu in the eastern portion of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), as North Korean soldiers fired two bullets towards a South Korean guard post, said a JCS official.

South Korean soldiers immediately fired back six rounds but there was no response, the official said, requesting anonymity.

"According to our rules of engagement on GOPs (general outposts), we should return fire if North Korea makes provocative acts," he said.

One of the two North Korean bullets hit a South Korean guard post inside the DMZ, but it didn't kill or injure South Korean soldiers, JCS officials said. The other North Korean bullet fell near the guard post, they said.

It is not immediately known whether there were any North Korean casualties.

Monday's incident took place amid rising tension over North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs. On July 5, North Korea conducted multiple missile tests, ignoring repeated international warnings not to do so.

All seven North Korean missiles fell harmlessly into the East Sea, but the United States and Japan led the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution imposing limited sanctions on the North. North Korea had said sanctions on the communist state were tantamount to a declaration of war.

Armed clashes along the inter-Korean border have been rare as the two Koreas have been pushing reconciliation since the first-ever summit of their leaders in Pyongyang in 2000. The mine-strewn 4-km-wide and 248-km-long DMZ forms a buffer between the Koreas, which are still technically in state of war as the 1950-53 Korean ended with an armistice.

In 2004, a North Korean tracer shot fell near a South Korean post inside the DMZ, triggering an immediate return of fire from the South.

The navies of the two Koreas fought gun battles along the disputed western maritime border in 1998 and 2002, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.


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