SEOUL, July 16 — South Korea exchanged machine gun fire with communist North Korea on Thursday in the Demilitarised Zone, the divided peninsula’s heavily fortified frontier, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
North Korea fired four shots at a South Korean army position in the DMZ in the centre of the peninsula around 6:10 a.m. (2100 GMT on Wednesday).The South answered with a warning broadcast and returned fire with 17 salvos, the statement said.
No one was wounded on the South side, the statement added.
There was no immediate report on the exchange in North Korea’s official media and the United States military in Seoul declined to comment. The South Korean Defence Ministry said it would hold a news conference on the incident at 0200 GMT.
The rare shooting took place as the United States and China are searching for a way to persuade North Korea to enter talks on abandoning Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The nuclear crisis erupted last year when American officials said North Korea had said it was pursuing a secret nuclear arms programme, which the United States fears could threaten its allies in the region and destabilise Northeast Asia.
The last shooting incident along the DMZ, a no man’s land that bisects the peninsula, took place in November 2001 at a point on the frontier north of Seoul.
The navies of the two Koreas engaged in a deadly firefight along their disputed maritime border in June 2002. Six South Korean sailors and an estimated 13 Northern seamen were killed.
North and South Korea are technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict, pitting U.S.-led United Nations Forces and Chinese-backed North Korea, ended in an armed truce