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Koreas Exchange Gunfire Along Border   10/19 10:10

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Troops from the rival Koreas exchanged gunfire 
Sunday along their heavily fortified border in the second such shooting in less 
than 10 days, South Korean officials said. There were no reports of injuries or 
property damage, but the 10 minutes of shooting highlighted rising tensions 
between the divided countries.

   The Koreas' first exchange of gunfire came after North Korea opened fire at 
balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets that were floating across the border 
from the South. Sunday's shootout began after North Korea sent soldiers close 
to the border line. The move was an attempt by the North to increase worries in 
the South about what might happen if leafleting continues, analysts say.

   South Korean activist groups, mostly made up of North Korean defectors, have 
been staunch in their vows to continue sending the leaflets, which Pyongyang 
considers propaganda warfare; one group says it will float about 50,000 on 
Saturday. North Korea has warned it will take unspecified stronger measures if 
leafleting continues.

   Generals from the sides met at a border village last week in their first 
military talks in more than three years to discuss how to ease the recent spike 
in tensions, but the meeting ended with no agreement and no prospects to meet 
again.

   On Sunday, South Korean soldiers broadcast warnings and fired warning shots 
at about 10 North Korean soldiers who were approaching the military demarcation 
line inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2.5-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone that 
bisects the Korean Peninsula, according to a statement from South Korea's Joint 
Chiefs of Staff.

   Two shots believed to have been fired by North Korean soldiers were found at 
a South Korean guard post. South Korean soldiers fired toward the North, the 
statement said.

   South Korean defense officials said the North Korean soldiers turned back 
after the shooting.

   North Korea opened fire on Oct. 10 after activists floated propaganda 
balloons across the border, following through on a previous threat to attack. 
There were no reports of casualties from that incident either.

   North Korea has repeatedly demanded South Korea ban activists from sending 
leaflets, which often urge North Korean citizens to rise up against leader Kim 
Jong Un. South Korea has refused, saying activists are exercising freedom of 
speech.

   Analyst Cheong Seong-chang at the private Sejong Institute think tank said 
Sunday's gunfire exchange showed North Korea is intentionally escalating 
military tension to spread fear about possible casualties should leafleting 
continue. He said North Korea is expected to launch more provocations as long 
as South Korea doesn't change its position on leafleting.

   The latest exchanges of gunfire serve as a reminder of long-running tensions 
between the Koreas despite earlier hopes of easing animosities after a group of 
top North Korean officials made a rare visit to South Korea early this month 
and agreed to resume senior-level talks.

   Only days after the North Koreans' visit, navy ships of the two Koreas also 
traded gunfire near their disputed western sea border, the scene of several 
bloody maritime skirmishes in recent years.

   The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 
Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. 
troops are stationed in South Korea.


(KA)


 
 
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