Two Koreas trade gunfire across DMZ
July 18, 2003
SEOUL — U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission officials are investigating a Thursday morning incident in which North and South Korean soldiers exchanged gunfire across the Demilitarized Zone, according to U.N. Command officials.
No U.S. soldiers were involved in the incident, said U.N. Command spokeswoman Lee Ferguson.
North Korean soldiers fired four rounds at about 6:10 a.m. and South Korean border guards fired 17 rounds in response about a minute later after broadcasting warnings, said Maj. Lee Tong-chan, South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman. He said the incident occurred near Yonchon, about 40 miles north of Seoul.
Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Yu Young-shik told Stars and Stripes that it doesn’t appear any North Korean soldiers were injured.
Under the armistice agreement, which ended the 1950-53 Korean War, the DMZ falls under jurisdiction of the U.N. Command.
North and South Korea share the DMZ, a 2.5-mile-wide buffer zone divided by an official border. Hundreds of thousand of soldiers from both Koreas are located close to the DMZ in case hostilities resume.
Since the armistice was signed, 89 Americans, more than 500 South Korean soldiers and at least 600 North Korean soldiers have died in incidents in Korea. Now, only a handful of U.S. soldiers actually patrol inside the DMZ, as most of those duties were turned over to the South Korean army in the early 1990s.
According to U.S. officials, there are only 30 to 40 American soldiers in the DMZ at any one time, though American units are poised just outside the zone.
The last shooting incident occurred on Nov. 27, 2001, when North Korean soldiers fired two or three rounds at a guard post, breaking a window and hitting a fence. No casualties were reported, and South Korean defense officials said the shooting appeared accidental. Southern soldiers fired 15 rounds back.
Earlier Wednesday, North Korea said U.S. demands for multilateral talks to resolve the crisis over the North’s alleged nuclear weapons program were complicating the issue.
“Washington’s demand for multilateral talks, while ignoring bilateral talks, is creating complexity to the (nuclear) issue,” the North’s state-run Rodong Sinmun said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is considering admitting thousands of North Korean refugees into the United States in an effort to increase pressure on the government in Pyongyang during the standoff over its nuclear weapons programs, officials said Tuesday.
— Choe Song-won and the Associated Press contributed to this report.