A visitor walks by a map of two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. South Korea’s military fired 20 rounds of warning shots Thursday as North Korean soldiers approached a borderline after their comrade defected to South Korea, officials said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korea fires warning shots after North soldier defects

South Korean soldiers fired warning shots at North Korean soldiers chasing a comrade

South Korean soldiers fired 20 warning machine-gun rounds Thursday, turning back North Korean soldiers apparently pursuing a comrade who had earlier dashed across the rivals’ shared border, officials said. It is the fourth time this year a North Korean soldier has defected across the world’s most heavily armed border.

South Korean military officials said they heard gunfire from the North after South Korea fired its warning shots, but it wasn’t clear if the firing was retaliatory. Neither side immediately reported casualties.

North Korean soldiers occasionally flee over the land border, but there have been few defections as dramatic as one that happened nearly 40 days ago, when a northern soldier crossed at a different, very public place — a jointly controlled area that is the only place where troops from the rivals face off only feet away from each other. That soldier was shot five times by his former comrades in an escape caught on video. He has been recovering in a hospital. The site of that defection is familiar to many foreign tourists, who can visit the blue huts that straddle the line between the rivals.

Related: North Korea says war is inevitable

Thursday’s defection happened at a much more remote section of the 4 kilometre (2.5 mile)-wide, 248-kilometre (155-mile) -long Demilitarized Zone, which serves as the border between the Koreas. When the defecting soldier — reportedly a 19-year-old — arrived at a front-line South Korean guard post, there was no shooting from the North, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. Spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the motive for the defection is under investigation.

Later Thursday, however, South Korea’s military detected several North Korean soldiers approaching the line between the countries in the DMZ, prompting the South to broadcast a warning and fire 20 warning shots, said a South Korean defence official, requesting anonymity because of department rules.

Related: North Korea launches another missile

The North Korean soldiers who approached the line were believed to be on a mission to hunt down their defecting comrade. They turned back to the North after the South’s warning shots, the official said. About 40 minutes later, soldiers twice heard several rounds of gunshot on the North Korean side of the border. No North Korean bullets were found in the South, the official said.

The latest defection was the fourth North Korean soldier to flee through the DMZ this year, the Defence Ministry said. About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea mostly via China since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

In a separate incident, two North Korean men found aboard a wooden boat off the east coast on Wednesday asked to resettle in the South, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Animosities run high on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea has been accelerating its weapons tests as part of its stated goal of achieving a nuclear missile capable of striking anywhere in the United States. Last month, North Korea test-fired its biggest and most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date.

Related: Vernon man confined in North Korea

Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

BIA floats idea of drive-through Santa Parade

If event goes ahead, ‘parade’ of cars would stream through fairgrounds

COVID-19 exposures reported at four more Surrey schools

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

PHOTOS: South Surrey skunk family photo earns honourable mention in BC SPCA contest

Winners of society’s latest wildlife photography contest announced

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Machine pistol among 14 firearms seized from Alaska man at B.C. border crossing

Corey Scott Kettering faces charges of smuggling and prohibited firearm possession

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Altercation with gunfire in Lower Mainland lands two in hospital

Quiet area of Langley was awoken at 5 a.m. Friday morning to a fight involving gun shots

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Report raises questions about COVID outbreak that killed 25 seniors at Langley Lodge

CEO defends leaked document that’s igniting queries about BC’s most deadly COVID outbreak

Most Read