Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Warning shots fired as North Korean troops cross border again

Barricades are placed near the Unification Bridge, which leads to the Panmunjom near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on June 11, 2024, in Paju, South Korea. Tensions between South and North Korea have escalated sharply in recent days, with both sides engaging in provocative actions, including North Korea's launch of hundreds of trash-filled balloons across the border and South Korea's decision to resume anti-North Korea propaganda broadcasts via loudspeakers. The move by South Korea marks a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict between the two Koreas, with North Korea warning of "new responses" if the broadcasts continue, amid concerns of a potential military response from Pyongyang.    (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Soo-Hyang Choi Bloomberg News

More than 20 North Korean soldiers who were on maintenance work crossed the line Tuesday and moved back north after the shots were fired, Yonhap News reported, citing South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The incident took place amid brisk North Korean activities near the border region, with its soldiers recently spotted laying new mines, renovating roads and establishing what appears to be anti-tank barriers along the border, according to the South Korean military.

Tensions between the rivals have been on the rise since late last month when North Korea began sending hundreds of balloons carrying trash over the border after complaining about South Korea conducting surveillance flights. South Korea, in response, suspended a 2018 agreement with North Korea aimed at reducing military tensions.

The incident took place hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to arrive in Pyongyang for his first trip to North Korea since 2000. The visit is set to stoke accusations from the U.S. and its partners that Kim has supplied massive amounts of munitions for the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine.

A similar border incident took place earlier this month. Seoul said at that time it appeared to be a mistake, and not an intentional intrusion.

The two Koreas position hundreds of thousands of troops and the bulk of their firepower near the border. The recent tit-for-tat reprisals raise the risks for a small incident to escalate quickly, and involve the some 28,500 U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea.

The actual border between the two Koreas known as the Military Demarcation Line sits between 2.5-mile wide Demilitarized Zone buffer that divides the peninsula. While the DMZ is easy to spot with its rows of razor-wire fencing, the MDL is more difficult to identify, as it is mostly marked with chest-high signs that can often be set far apart.