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North, South Korea soldiers exchange gunfire at DMZ

Officials in Seoul say North Korean soldiers fired two rounds toward a guard post, and South Korean soldiers immediately responded with three shots. The incident raises tension before next month's G-20 summit in Seoul.

October 30, 2010|By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
  • A man at a Seoul train station watches a TV news program showing South Korean soldiers at the demilitarized zone in the wake of the incident.
A man at a Seoul train station watches a TV news program showing South Korean… (Lee Jin-man / Associated…)

Reporting from Seoul — North and South Korean soldiers traded gunfire Friday along the heavily guarded DMZ, an exchange that raised tensions before world leaders gather here next month for the G-20 economic summit.

Officials here said North Korean soldiers fired two rounds toward a guard post along the border and that South Korean troops immediately fired back.

"Two shots were fired from a North Korean military guard post … around 5:26 p.m., and we immediately returned fire with three shots as under the rules of engagement," said an official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

No one was injured in the skirmish about 70 miles northeast of Seoul and it was unclear whether the incident was an intentional provocation, officials said. The opposing guard posts are separated by about a mile.

The military clash came hours after North Korea vowed to retaliate for the South's rejection of its proposal to hold military talks.

But South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said that reunions of hundreds of families separated by the Korean War, previously arranged for Saturday in the North, would proceed as scheduled.

"All the preparations are going smoothly," a ministry official told Seoul's Yonhap news agency. "We don't foresee any problems with holding reunions tomorrow as planned."

Pyongyang last week had proposed military talks with the South over the dissemination of anti-North Korean leaflets by activists here, according to a statement released Friday by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Authorities in the North warned of "merciless physical retaliation" for rejection of the proposal, claiming that South Korean officials would realize "what catastrophic impact their rejection of dialogue will have on the North-South relations," according to the North's news agency.

North-South tensions have remained high since March, when a North Korean submarine was accused of sinking a 1,200-ton Southern warship, killing 46 of the crewmen. Pyongyang has denied involvement in the incident.

North Korea has warned that it might fire artillery at areas south of the demilitarized zone where activists use balloons to launch leaflets to be dropped in the North condemning leader Kim Jong Il, something the North calls psychological warfare.

john.glionna@latimes.com

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