(2nd LD) N. Korean soldiers briefly cross inter-Korean border, return after warning shots

Date: 2024-06-11T13:26:28+09:00

Location: en.yna.co.kr

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS byline)
By Chae Yun-hwan

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- About 20 North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the inter-Korean land border earlier this week and went back to the North's side after the South's military fired warning shots, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Tuesday, amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang's trash-carrying balloon campaign.

The North Korean soldiers crossed the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas in the central section of the border at around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to the JCS.

The South's military aired warning broadcasts and fired warning shots, prompting the North Koreans to return to their side of the border, the JCS said, noting there was no unusual activity after the shots.

JCS spokesperson Col. Lee Sung-jun said the military assessed that the North Koreans, who were working on an unspecified task inside the DMZ, did not intentionally cross the border, considering they returned immediately after the warning shots.

Lee said the DMZ is currently thick with grass and bushes, making MDL signs difficult to see.

"(They) were moving through bushes where there was no path, and we were observing them even before they came near the MDL," Lee told a regular briefing. "It is assessed to be a simple violation, while they were moving for a task."

He said some of the troops were armed, while many of them carried work tools, but declined to elaborate on what they were working on.

The incident came just hours before the South blared anti-Pyongyang broadcasts through border loudspeakers Sunday after a six-year hiatus in response to the North's recent launches of balloons carrying garbage into the South.

Since May 28, the North is estimated to have sent more than 1,600 of such balloons in what has been called a "tit-for-tat" response to anti-Pyongyang leafleting by activists in the South.

The DMZ is one of the heaviest-guarded areas in the world, with barbed wire fences and a substantial military presence along both sides.

The MDL horizontally bisects the DMZ, which has served as a buffer zone between the two Koreas since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.