North and South Korea exchange gunfire at border

North and South Korea exchange gunfire at border
It is not clear what is the reason behind the incident. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: South and North Korea have exchanged gunfire in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which divides the two countries.

Seoul’s military said gunshots fired by North Korea at 07:41 (23:41 BST) hit a South Korean guard post in the central border town of Cheorwon, but no casualties were reported in the South.

The military statement said, in response, South Korea fired two “two rounds of gunfire and a warning announcement according to our manual”.

What provoked the initial gunshots is not clear yet. The joint chiefs of staff (JCS) said that they were trying to contact the North through their military hotline to know what caused the incident.

According to the South Korean military, there’s a “low possibility” that the shots fired by North Korea were intentional, but at this stage is unclear how they’ve made that assessment.

Even if it was a miscalculation or accident, it shows just how important it is for troops to keep level heads in the heavily fortified DMZ to ensure the situation isn’t made much worse.

If it was a more tactical decision by North Korea then that’s a very different matter.

The timing of the gunfire is interesting. It happened just 24 hours since the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un re-appeared after a 21-day absence.

According to North Korean state media, there have also been a large number of military drills in the North in recent months to improve readiness to fight an “actual war”.

North Korea has sometimes used the tactic of escalate to de-escalate, using its military posturing as leverage in later negotiations.

But any sign of direct fire will be a big disappointment to many in South Korea, as a lot of work has been accomplished in the last two years to ease tensions between the two countries after President Moon Jae-in met Kim Jong-un.

The two leaders signed a military agreement – any deliberate shots fired would breach that pact.

This is the first time in five years that North Korea have directly fired to the South. The last incident happened when a North Korean soldier made a dash across the military demarcation line to defect to the South.

The demilitarised zone (DMZ) was set up after the Korean War in 1953 in an attempt to create a buffer zone between the two countries.

For the past two years, President Moon’s administration has tried to turn the heavily fortified border into a peace zone.