Saturday 24 March 2018

North Korea vows to fire on 'deliberate provocation' at demilitarised zone

A TV news programme shows images published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of this week's ballistic missile launch and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (AP)
A TV news programme shows images published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of this week's ballistic missile launch and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (AP)

North Korea has threatened to aim fire at lights used by "provocative" American and South Korean troops at a truce village inside the demilitarised zone that divides the two Koreas.

The North's Korean People's Army (KPA) accused US and South Korean soldiers of "deliberate provocations" by aiming their lights at North Korean guard posts at Panmunjom since Friday evening.

The KPA said in a statement that the soldiers' actions have seriously threatened the safety of North Korean troops and disrupted their normal monitoring activities.

It said the activities have further raised the anger of North Korean soldiers at a time when the Korean Peninsula has reached the "brink of war" due to last Monday's start of annual joint military drills between the US and South Korea that Pyongyang says are an invasion rehearsal.

"Floodlight directed at the KPA side at random is taken as an intolerable means of provocation and it will be the target of merciless pinpoint shots," the KPA's chief security officers at Panmunjom said in the statement, carried by the North's state media.

"The true aim sought by the provocateurs through their recent act is to seriously get on the nerves of the KPA soldiers, lead them to take due counter-measures and label them as provocation," it said.

The warning came hours after the United Nations Security Council issued a statement strongly condemning four North Korean ballistic missile launches in July and August.

The statement approved by all 15 members deplored the fact that the North's ballistic missile activities were contributing to its development of nuclear weapon delivery systems and increasing tensions.

It urged all UN member states ''to redouble their efforts'' to implement sanctions against Pyongyang, including the toughest measures in two decades imposed by the council in March. Those sanctions reflected growing anger at Pyongyang's nuclear test in January and a subsequent rocket launch.

North Korea has repeatedly flouted UN resolutions demanding an end to its nuclear and ballistic missile activities and has continued to launch missiles, escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the region.

The latest submarine launch of a ballistic missile came on Wednesday, and South Korean officials said it flew about 310 miles, the longest distance achieved by the North for such a weapon. That means all of South Korea, and possibly parts of Japan, are within its striking distance.

On Tuesday, the American-led UN Command in South Korea accused North Korea of planting land mines near the truce village. Panmunjom, jointly overseen by North Korea and the UN Command, is where an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War was signed and is now a popular tourist spot for visitors from both sides.

Under the Korean War armistice, the two sides are barred from carrying out any hostile acts within or across the 2.5-mile wide demilitarised zone. Still, they have accused each other of deploying machine guns and other heavy weapons and combat troops inside the zone.

More than a million mines are also believed to be buried inside the zone. In August 2015, land mine blasts that Seoul blamed on Pyongyang maimed two South Korean soldiers and caused tensions between the two Koreas to flare.


Press Association

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