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S.Korea, DPRK trade fires in border over propaganda broadcasts
South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) traded fires across border Thursday over the resumed propaganda broadcasts and landmine blasts in front-line areas.
Army Col. Jeon Ha-kyu, spokesman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), told a press briefing that the DPRK conducted firing provocation twice at 3:52 p.m. (6:52 a.m. GMT) and 4:12 p.m. respectively.
The first provocation was the firing of a shell from the DPRK's 14.5-mm anti-aircraft artillery, and the second was several rounds launched from the 76.2 mm direct-fire weapons.
The South Korean military fired back about 20 warning shots at 5:04 p.m. with its 155-mm self-propelled guns at areas, from which it believed the DPRK had shot the shells.
No damage and casualty have been reported. The DPRK shells were believed to have landed in hills near South Korea's front-line army units.
South Korea has put its troops on highest alert after the first exchange of fires between the two Koreas in 10 months. In October 2014, South Korea and the DPRK traded fires across border after Pyongyang shot at balloons carrying anti-DPRK leaflets floated by a South Korean civic group. South Korea shot back, in response.
After exchanging fires on Thursday, the DPRK's general staff department sent a message to South Korea's defense ministry at about 5 p.m., warning that it would launch military actions unless Seoul stops propaganda broadcasts in border areas within 48 hours from 5 p.m..
Tensions escalated over the inter-Korean border after two South Korean soldiers were maimed by the explosion of landmines on Aug. 4, which Seoul claimed had been planted by DPRK forces. Pyongyang denied the allegation.
In retaliation for the provocation, the South Korean military resumed the propaganda broadcasts in 11 years with loudspeakers, which the DPRK called "a direct action of declaring war." Over the weekend, Pyongyang also warned of indiscriminate strikes against the speakers.
Meanwhile, the DPRK showed a conciliatory gesture by delivering a letter to Kim Kwan-jin, top security advisor to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, at about 4:50 p.m. Thursday in the name of Kim Yang Gon, director of the DPRK's United Front Department in charge of Seoul-Pyongyang relations.
The letter warned that the DPRK will conduct military actions against the continued propaganda broadcasts, but it said that Pyongyang had a will to make efforts for opening a path to mending ties with South Korea.
South Korea saw the letter as having an intention of twisting the fact that tensions arose from the DPRK landmine provocation. Therefore, the military said it will continue to air the propaganda broadcasts.
President Park convened the emergency meeting of the National Security Council for the first time, as the meeting is usually chaired by top presidential security secretary.
During the 40-minute meeting, Park instructed officials to deal sternly with any DPRK provocation and maintain a perfect defense readiness while making all-out efforts to ensure safety of the people, the presidential office said.
About 2,000 South Korean people living in villages near the west border were evacuated.
The exchange of fires came after South Korea and the United States kicked off their joint annual war game, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), on Monday. The DPRK has denounced it as a rehearsal for the northward invasion. The computer-assisted simulation exercise would last until Aug. 28.
[Source: Xinhua, Seoul, 20Aug15]
East China Sea Conflict
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