South Korea says troops exchange fire with North Korea along border

SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korean troops exchanged fire along their tense border on Sunday, the South’s military said, blaming North Korean soldiers for targeting a guard post.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said in a statement that North Korean troops fired several bullets at a South Korean guard post inside the heavily fortified border. South Korea fired two rounds in response after issuing a warning broadcast, it said.

South Korea suffered no casualties, the military said. It’s unknown whether North Korea had any casualties. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency hasn’t reported about the incident.

It comes a day after North Korea broadcast images of leader Kim Jong Un reappearing in public after a 20-day absence amid intense speculation about his health.

KCNA said Kim attended Friday’s ceremony marking the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang along with senior officials. State TV showed Kim smiling and walking around factory facilities.

Kim earlier vanished from the public eye after presiding over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on April 11 to discuss the coronavirus. Speculation about his health began swirling after he missed an April 15 event commemorating the birthday of his grandfather and state founder, Kim Il Sung, something he had never done since inheriting power upon his father Kim Jong Il’s death in late 2011.

The Koreas are split along the 248-kilometer (155-mile) -long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) -wide border called the Demilitarized Zone that was originally created as a buffer. But unlike its name, the DMZ is the world’s most heavily fortified border. An estimated 2 million mines are peppered inside and near the DMZ, which is also guarded by barbed wire fences, tank traps and combat troops on both sides.

In late 2018, the two Koreas began destroying some of their front-line guard posts and removing mines from the DMZ as part of steps to reduce tensions. But the efforts stalled amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations between Kim and President Donald Trump meant to convince North Korea to give up its arsenal in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

The last time there was gunfire along the border was in 2017, when North Korea sprayed bullets at a soldier fleeing to South Korea.

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Trump crosses into North Korea, shakes hands with Kim in history-making event in the DMZ

President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un shook hands across the border at the Korean Demilitarized Zone in an historic photo-op as Trump seeks to make a legacy-defining nuclear deal with the North.

It happened late Saturday, California time.

  • President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left of Trump arrive to talk to troops at the Korean Demilitarized Zone at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

  • President Donald Trump talks to troops at the Korean Demilitarized Zone at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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  • President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, walk up to view North Korea from the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

  • President Donald Trump talks to troops at the Korean Demilitarized Zone at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

  • President Donald Trump walks up to view North Korea from the Korean Demilitarized Zone from Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas in South Korea, Sunday, June 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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It is the third time the two leaders have met, and the first since a failed summit on the North’s nuclear program in Vietnam earlier this year. Trump briefly crossed the border into North Korea after greeting Kim.

There are as yet no indications of a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations to end the North’s nuclear program.

Trump was joined by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who praised Trump for deciding to meet with Kim. He called it “a bold decision”

Peering into North Korea from Observation Post Ouellette before the meeting with Kim, Trump was briefed on the North’s extensive artillery across the border that threatens the 35 million residents of Seoul, just over two dozen miles away. “All accessible by what they have in the mountains,” Trump said.

Trump claimed to reporters that, after his first meeting with Kim last year, “all of the danger went away.”

Trump and Moon greeted several dozen U.S. and South Korean troops guarding the Demilitarized Zone. Trump shook hands with the troops and received a gift of a golf jacket from the joint command. “You’re doing a fantastic job,” Trump told service members. “We’re with you all the way.”

The president departed Seoul aboard the Marine One presidential helicopter shortly after Moon announced Sunday, alongside Trump, that Kim had accepted Trump’s invitation to meet at the heavily fortified site at the Korean border village of Panmunjom.

Trump told reporters before departing that he looked forward to seeing Kim and to “shake hands quickly and say hello.”

The meeting between Trump and Kim marked yet another historic first in the yearlong rapprochement between the U.S. and North Korea, which technically are still at war. It also marked the return of face-to-face contact between the leaders since negotiations to end the North’s nuclear program broke down during a summit in Vietnam in February.

Moon praised the two leaders for “being so brave” to hold the meeting and said, “I hope President Trump will go down in history as the president who achieves peace on Korean Peninsula.”

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