Seoul Says North Korea Laid Land Mines at Border
South resumes anti-North Korea propaganda broadcasts after two soldiers maimed in explosion
PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
SEOUL—North Korean soldiers laid three land mines that exploded a week ago on the South Korean side of the nations’ heavily fortified border, the United Nations and Seoul’s military said. The explosions severed the legs of two South Korean soldiers.
In response, South Korea resumed anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts through large loudspeakers at the border Monday evening, after more than a decade off. Relations between the Koreas 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 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 soldier, South Korea’s military said.
South Korean and U.S. officials say North Korea has refused virtually all efforts to establish dialogue in recent months. Some observers say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s frequent appearances at military events is a sign of his lack of interest in diplomacy.
South Korean military officials didn’t address how they would attempt to prevent a recurrence of the attack or how the mines were placed without being detected.
PHOTO: THE DEFENSE MINISTRY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The U.S. condemned North Korea’s actions.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the Republic of Korea soldiers who were injured, and to their families,” State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams said. “We join the U.N. Command in condemning these violations of the armistice agreement.”
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, Maj. Gen. 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.
Gen. Koo said that Seoul believes North Korean soldiers laid the mines between July 23 and Aug. 3.
Next week’s U.S.-South Korea drills are designed to ensure readiness for a North Korean invasion.
—Felicia Schwartz contributed to this article.
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