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Gunfire Erupts on Korean Border

Asia: South says shots from North apparently were accidental. Incident occurs during impasse in two nations' reconciliation efforts.

November 28, 2001|From Associated Press

SEOUL — U.N. officials were investigating a brief exchange of gunfire Tuesday across the heavily armed border between North and South Korea.

The South Korean military said there were no reports of injuries during the shooting, which came during an impasse in inter-Korean reconciliation efforts. Although officials said the North fired first, they added that the gunfire appeared to be accidental.

South Korea's office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the shooting occurred Tuesday morning on the western sector of the border near Paju, about 30 miles north of Seoul, the South Korean capital.

The statement said two or three shots were fired from a North Korean guard post inside the 2 1/2-mile-deep demilitarized zone.

A window at a South Korean guard post was broken and a wire fence was also hit, but no South Korean soldiers were injured, the statement said.

South Korean guards broadcast warnings and fired back about 15 rounds. There were no reports of injuries in the North, South Korean officials said.

Noting that the North Korean fire did not last, the South Korean military said it did not appear to be an intentional attack.

In the past week, North Korea charged that South Korea's military brought a howitzer and two armored tanks into the demilitarized zone. The 1953 Korean armistice agreement allows only rifles and other small arms inside the buffer zone.

Also Tuesday, the American-led United Nations Command confirmed that North Korea is asking Australia, New Zealand and some other allies of South Korea to withdraw from the U.N. Military Armistice Commission, a watchdog group that oversees the Korean cease-fire agreement.

North Korea has been trying to nullify the watchdog committee for years as a way of pressuring Washington to sign a peace treaty with Pyongyang.

Reconciliation talks between the Koreas have slowed this year amid tension between the United States and the North.

The Koreas also have been at odds over South Korea's anti-terrorism measures taken after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. Those measures put the entire South Korean military and police forces on alert.

South Korea said its anti-terrorism measures are unrelated to North Korea. Pyongyang accused South Korea of lying.

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