SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean forces have opened fire on a military soldier who defecting in South Korea on Monday, across the heavily armed border dividing the countries, officials from South Korea said, amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Soldier was shot, but managed to reach the south, his army said in a statement.
A North Korean soldier fled the Panmunjom, a village that crosses the border between the two Koreas. Alerted by gunshots, South Korean guards found a North Korean soldier about 55 meters south of the border line that occupied Panmunjom. He was taken to hospital with skirmishes at the elbow and shoulders, South Korean officials said.
His defection took place amid a joint naval exercise involving three American aircraft carriers in waters off South Korea’s east coast. It was the first time in a decade that the United States Navy mobilized three transport groups in the same exercise in the Western Pacific and represented a force that President Trump had said the Americans “are hoping for God that we should never use” against the North Korea.
North Korea has remained defiant, calling Mr. Trump a “dotard” again on Saturday and insisting that it will never give up its nuclear weapons pursuit.
More than 30,000 North Koreans fled south, as the widespread famine hit the poor northern city in the late 1990s. Almost all of them traveled throughout China. But a small number of North Korean troops and civilians fled the crossing of the demilitarized zone, 2.5 miles wide, which is guarded by minefields, static views and high fences with barbed wire, some electrified.
In 2012, a North Korean soldier wrapped three fences with a barbed wire for a defect in the South. That same year, another North Korean soldier fled the border after the killing of his leaders and leaders of the squadron. In 2015, after crossing the border, a North Korean soldier told South Korean investigators that he was fleeing widespread beatings and other abuses in his barracks.
The demilitarized zone is one of the strongest armed borders in the world. Guards on both sides remain alert against possible intruders or defectors.
In 2013, South Korean soldiers shot and killed a South Korean man who tried to cross the river at the western end of the border.
In 1984, a shootout broke out in Pangmuin, when a citizen of the then Soviet Union smashed across the border to defect to the West. North Korean troops opened fire to prevent it, and South Korean border guards fired. A South Korean soldier and three North Korean border guards were killed.
Separately on Monday, the South Korean army said it had detained an American citizen who was approaching the Inter-Korean border.
South Korean defense, police and intelligence spokesmen confirmed the detention of an American, but no one will provide details of the record.
The US Embassy in Seoul said it was aware of the report, but could not give further details.
In 2014, an American was arrested by South Korean troops on the river bank near the western border after attempting to swim to the north. After being arrested, he told officials that he intended to leave for North Korea to meet with his leader, Kim Jong-un.
Source : www.nytimes.com