North and South Korea Exchange Fire At Border DMZ

Kwang-tae Kim
Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired over its heavily fortified southern border Friday, and South Korea retaliated in a rare instance of their cold war turning hot less than two weeks before President Barack Obama and other world leaders are due in Seoul for a global economic summit.

It was unclear late Friday whether North Korea’s firing of 14.5-mm rounds at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone was an accident or an intentional provocation, an official with the Joint Chief of Staff in Seoul said.

However, the shooting — the first at the border since 2007 — came just hours after North Korea threatened to retaliate for South Korea’s refusal last week to hold military talks with its wartime rival.

South Korean soldiers immediately returned fire, but sustained no injuries, according to the Joint Chiefs official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. There was no word from the North on either the incident or injuries.

The exchange lasted just a few minutes but highlighted the security challenges South Korea faces as it prepares to host next month’s Group of 20 summit in Seoul, just 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border.

The firing underscores the unusual — almost surreal — world South Korea inhabits: Though a major global economy and a political leader in Asia with one of the highest standards of living in the world, the South is still technically at war with the North because their conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Tens of thousands of troops stand guard on both sides of the border dividing the Koreas.

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