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Tensions Flare Between North and South Korea over Land Mine Explosion

South Korean Army Brig. Gen. and Head of Joint Investigation

South Korean Army Brig. Gen. and Head of Joint Investigation

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 SEOUL –  South Korea has resumed it’s anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts through large loudspeakers at the border Monday evening, after more than a decade off. This comes in response to North Korean soldiers laying three land mines that exploded last Tuesday on the South Korean side of heavily fortified border.

South Korea’s military has threatened retaliation against North Korea in what it called a cowardly act of provocation.

Relations between the Korea’s are souring ahead of large military drills in South Korea that begin next week, annual exercises with the U.S. that typically draw an angry reaction from Pyongyang.

The explosions severed the legs of two South Korean soldiers.

The explosions severed the legs of two South Korean soldiers.

The mines exploded on the morning of Aug. 4 as eight South Korean soldiers were conducting a routine patrol along the border near the city of Paju. An initial blast of two mines severed both legs of one soldier. Another soldier lost one of his legs in a separate explosion as he helped the first casualty, The Washington Post Reported

A South Korean soldier re-enacts burying a wooden-box mine around a gate on the southern side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the city of Paju, north of Seoul

A South Korean soldier re-enacts burying a wooden-box mine around a gate on the southern side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the city of Paju, north of Seoul

An investigation by the U.N. Command, which monitors the armistice agreement between the two Koreas, reached the same conclusion as the South Korean military, that North Korea had placed the mines on the southern side of the border. Splinters from the mines indicated they were constructed in wooden boxes, an old technology not used by South Korea. The U.N. Command investigation ruled out the possibility that they had drifted from another location due to flooding or shifting soil.

The U.N. Command said the action violated the armistice agreement, which was signed in 1953 to end the Korean War.

In a statement, Major General Koo Hong-mo, head of operations for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Seoul would make North Korea pay a “pitiless penalty” for planting the mines. Later in the day, the Defense Ministry said it had resumed the cross-border broadcasts critical of the Pyongyang regime, which it had interrupted in 2004.

As of late Monday, North Korea’s state media had made no reference to the mine blasts or South Korean response.

The demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas is one of the most heavily mined areas in the world, but North Korean soldiers occasionally make it across to defect. Mr. Koo said that Seoul believes North Korean soldiers laid the mines between July 23 and Aug. 3.

The mine incident comes ahead of next week’s start of U.S.-South Korea summer military exercises. The drills are designed to ensure readiness for a North Korean invasion.

By  Alastair Gale

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