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UN Command Says North Korea Breached Armistice With Border Fire

Peter Pae

North Korea breached the inter-Korean armistice agreement when its border guards fired across the military demarcation line with South Korea at a defecting soldier, according to the United Nations Command.

The UNC released a video Wednesday of the soldier crossing the demarcation line into South Korea last week. It said in a statement it would seek a meeting with North Korean officials.

The footage shows a vehicle speeding down a road before hitting an embankment; North Korean guards then run toward the vehicle, prompting the driver to set out on foot southward toward the border. The North Korean guards get within 15 feet of the defector and start shooting before he stumbles across the demarcation line.

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A spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea said North Korea violated the terms of the armistice when its guards fired across the demarcation line, and one of them briefly crossed over. The report was forwarded to Pyongyang with a request for a meeting with the aim of preventing such violations in the future. 

North Korea and South Korea, a key U.S. ally, are technically still at war, with Kim Jong Un’s regime saying a 1953 armistice agreement is invalid. The two countries are separated by a demilitarized zone and have large military presences on either side.

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The release of the video comes after the U.S. slapped new sanctions on North Korea following President Donald Trump’s announcement Monday he would designate the country a state sponsor of terrorism. Pyongyang has accelerated its weapons program this year, test-firing long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that it says could hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear warhead.

North Korea has yet to respond to its designation as sponsor of terrorism or the latest sanctions.

The defector was severely injured but has regained consciousness in a South Korean hospital, Yonhap News said Tuesday. He was shot five or six times in the elbow, shoulder and abdomen, the news agency said.

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