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North Korea warns of 'unpredictable retaliatory strikes' against South

The two sides exchanged fire yesterday.

South Korean army soldiers patrol through the military wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea.
South Korean army soldiers patrol through the military wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea.

NORTH KOREA HAS warned of an “unpredictable” retaliatory strike against South Korea following a series of minor border skirmishes that have raised military tensions ahead of planned high-level talks.

Troops from the two sides exchanged small arms fire yesterday after South Korean troops fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol moving towards the military demarcation line that marks the border on the peninsula.

The North’s military warned in a message sent Monday through a border hotline that it would take “unpredictable measures” in retaliation for alleged provocations from South Korea, the South’s defence ministry said.

It also vowed to continue its patrol along the demarcation line, a ministry spokesman said, adding the South responded with a message expressing regret and warning North Korea against further provocations.

He said:

Our side clarified our position that we will sternly deal with further provocations by North Korea.

On October 7 North and South Korean naval vessels traded warning fire near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Three days later border guards exchanged heavy machine-gun fire after the North tried to shoot down balloons launched over the land frontier with bundles of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

The North has repeatedly urged the South to ban the leaflet launches organised by activist groups, but Seoul insists it has no legal grounds for doing so.

Last week the two Koreas held military talks to address the tensions but these ended without agreement.

The border incidents have jeopardised a decision — reached during a surprise visit to the South by a top-ranking North delegation earlier this month — to resume high-level talks suspended since February.

The South has proposed October 30 as a date for restarting the dialogue, and unification ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-Cheol told reporters Friday he still believes the talks will go ahead.

Because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.

Despite its name, the Demilitarised Zone straddling the border bristles with watchtowers and landmines.

© – AFP 2014

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