North and South Korea have exchanged gunfire in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which divides the two countries.
Gunshots fired by North Korea at 07:41 (23:41 BST) 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.
There’s a “low possibility” that the shots fired by North Korea were intentional, according to the South Korean military. But at this stage is unclear how they’ve made that assessment.
Even if was an accident or a miscalculation, 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 is interesting. It’s just 24 hours since the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un re-appeared after a 21-day absence. There have also been a large number of military drills in the North in recent months to improve readiness to fight an “actual war”, according to state media.
Pyongyang 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 disappointment to many in South Korea. There has been a lot of work in the last two years to ease tensions between the two countries after President Moon Jae-in met Kim Jong-un. The two sides signed a military agreement – any deliberate shots fired would breach that pact.
This is the first time in five years that North Korean troops have directly fired on 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 order to create a buffer zone between the two countries.
For the past two years, the government in Seoul 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.
Kim Jong-un’s reappearance in public, reported by North Korean state media on Friday, followed an almost-three-week unexplained absence that sparked intense global speculation about his health.
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