North Korea and South Korea have exchanged gunfire in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which divides the two Asian countries.
Gunshots fired by North Korea at 07:41 AM local time hit a South Korean guard post in the central border town of Cheorwon, Seoul’s military said.
No casualties were reported on the South Korean side.
In response, South Korea fired “two rounds of gunfire and a warning announcement according to our manual”, the military statement said.
It is not clear what provoked the initial gunshots. The joint chiefs of staff (JCS) said that they were trying to contact North Korea through their military hotline to determine the cause of the incident.
This is the first time in five years that North Korean troops have directly fired on South Korea. The last incident happened when a North Korean soldier made a dash across the military demarcation line to defect to South Korea.
The DMZ was set up after the Korean War in 1953 in order to create a buffer zone between the two countries.
For the past two years, the South Korean government has tried to turn the heavily fortified border into a peace zone.
Easing military tensions at the border was one of the agreements reached between the leaders of the two countries held a summit in Pyongyang in September 2018.
The US has decided to send a senior official to North Korea to request the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae jailed in the communist state.
Robert King, the US special envoy for North Korean rights, will arrive in Pyongyang on Friday, the state department said.
He will request a pardon and amnesty for Kenneth Bae, 45, on humanitarian grounds, it said.
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American, was given 15 years’ hard labour in May for trying to overthrow the North Korean government.
His family say he is seriously ill and has been moved from a labour camp to a hospital. They say he has diabetes and an enlarged heart.
“We remain deeply concerned about the health and welfare of Kenneth Bae,” a White House statement said.
The US has decided to send a senior official to North Korea to request the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae jailed in the communist state
“We urge the government of North Korea to grant special clemency to Mr. Bae immediately and allow him to return home with Ambassador King.”
Kenneth Bae (known in North Korea as Pae Jun-ho) was arrested in November 2012 as he entered the north-eastern port city of Rason, a special economic zone near North Korea’s border with China.
He has been described as both a tour operator and Christian missionary.
North Korea said he used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government.
Kenneth Bae’s trial and conviction came at a time of high tension between the US and North Korea, in the wake of the communist state’s third nuclear test. It also came as the US and South Korea conducted annual large-scale military exercises, which angered Pyongyang.
North Korea has arrested several US citizens in recent years, including journalists and Christians accused of proselytising.
They were released after visits to Pyongyang by high-profile officials, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
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