Fully armed North Korean troops violated the truce that halted the 1950-53 Korean War when they fired weapons across the border last week while chasing a fellow Communist soldier defecting to South Korea, the United Nations Command said on Wednesday.
One of the North Korean chasers briefly crossed the borderline before turning back in a hurry, another violation of the Korean War armistice, the command said.
The American-led United Nations Command, which oversees the armistice, notified the North Korean People’s Army of its findings and demanded a meeting to discuss ways to prevent future violations, the command said in a statement.
The command also released closed-circuit television footage that illustrated the North Korean’s dramatic defection through the Joint Security Areanorth of Seoul, the South Korean capital, on Nov. 13.
At the signing of the Korean War armistice, a 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone, or DMZ, was created to keep the warring sides apart, and the heavily guarded Joint Security Area serves as the only point along the DMZ where troops from both sides face off, separated by only a few feet. They could also meet there to discuss enforcing the truce.
According to the footage, the defector sped a drab, olive-colored military jeep along a tree-lined road and into the Joint Security Area after crossing a North Korean landmark known as the 72-Hour Bridge.
When the vehicle did not stop at a North Korean guard post and drove into the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area, Communist troops wearing helmets and carrying sidearms and rifles poured out of their buildings. The jeep got stuck near the border line, a white concrete marker barely taller than a brick, which bisects the two sides of the Joint Security Area.
The defector got out and dashed for life across the line, while four North Korean soldiers, one of them lying on the ground, unleashed a hail of bullets to stop him.
In the next segments of the footage, the North Korean defector lay motionless among leaves beside a wall 55 yards south of the border.
Two South Korean Army sergeants crawled to him and dragged him to safety, while North Korean soldiers watched them from their guard post.
The South’s Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday that the soldier had woken up and begun talking, but doctors and officials said he was still too weak to undergo a debriefing.
Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, an American who leads the United Nations Command, said his troops had acted "in a manner that is consistent with the armistice agreement, namely — to respect the demilitarized zone and to take actions that deter a resumption of hostilities.”
He added, "The armistice agreement was challenged, but it remains in place.”
North Korea has not yet commented on the defection. It took place amid heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile tests and an exchange of warlike threats and personal insults between President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since a widespread famine hit the impoverished North in the late 1990s. Nearly all of them have traveled through China. But a few North Korean soldiers and civilians have defected by crossing the DMZ, undeterred by minefields, sentry posts and tall fences topped with barbed wire, some electrified.
In 1984, a gunfight erupted at the Joint Security Area when a citizen from what was then the Soviet Union dashed across the border to defect to the West. North Korean troops opened fire to stop him, and South Korean border guards fired back. One South Korean soldier and three North Korean border guards were killed.
A North Korean soldier last defected through the area in 2007.