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.

Just Posted

West Shore skatepark moves closer to fruition

Company estimates project will cost $600,000

Heat warning issued for Vancouver Island

Temperatures expected to cool down later this week

Short trip to car-free Sidney Spit offers camping, beaches, hikes

Sidney Spit is part of B.C.’s Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a protected marine ecosystem

Canadian military gains valuable disaster experience at RIMPAC

Naval, air force and army personnel practise war activities, humanitarian relief

Well-versed in national competition, trio heads to B.C. Summer Games

The three will be representing Zone 6 in boys field lacrosse

WATCH: Thousands rock in Colwood over the weekend

Rock the Shores returns after one-year hiatus

Black Press Media journalists win big at Canadian community newspaper awards

Newsrooms earn recognition for editorial and photography excellence

Riptide, CVUSC paved the way for varsity soccer players

Chloe Gummer has become a leader at VIU

HarbourCats giving away funeral/cremation prize pack at Wednesday game

West Coast League club will draw for end-of-life package for one lucky, forward-looking fan

B.C. woman disappointed after family asked for ID at townhouse complex pool

Surrey woman says it’s not the first time she has experienced racial profiling at the complex

Park pipeline protesters say arrest is a ‘declaration of war’

Group behind North Thompson River Provincial Park occupation protest says arrest is ‘declaration of war’

A day of deals at Amazon, and at its rivals

Online retail giant extends annual ‘Prime Day’ promotion to 36 hours

Alert B.C. campers raise alarm and avert potential propane disaster

Salmon Arm camper lodges a complaint with Technical Safety BC after motorhome tank is over-filled.

Non-union construction industry fears exclusion in B.C.

Premier John Horgan announces new Crown corporation for public works

Most Read