Shots exchanged on Korean border before U.S. visit
April 10, 1997
Web posted at: 1:02 p.m. EDT (1702 GMT)
In this story:
PANMUNJOM, Korea (CNN) -- North and South Korean troops
traded warning shots Thursday across the tense demilitarized
zone dividing them, in an incident visiting U.S. Defense
Secretary William Cohen said showed the dangerous and
unstable situation in the North.
The shooting in the eastern sector of the heavily fortified
DMZ came about an hour before Cohen arrived by helicopter in
Panmunjom, the truce village in the 2.5 mile (4 km) strip
that separates the two Koreas.
Panmunjom is about 60 miles (100 km) west of the flashpoint.
Cohen was unaware of the incident until after he returned to
U.S. and South Korean officials stressed that numerous
shooting incidents have occurred in the DMZ since a truce
ended the 1950-1953 Korean War, although a South Korean
defense ministry spokesman said it was the first time this
Cohen: 'Decaying and dying'
Southern troops on patrol within the DMZ fired 10 shots into
the air after spotting five or six North Korean soldiers who
had crossed the border line, U.S. and South Korean officials
"The North Korean soldiers fired back warning shots and
withdrew," a Seoul military spokesman said.
Eyeballed by a North Korean sentry from across the DMZ, Cohen
denounced North Korea's "decaying and dying" communist system
and called on Pyongyang to make peace with South Korea.
Cohen later said of the shooting incident: "It confirms that
it is still a very tense, dangerous, unstable situation as
far as the North Koreans are concerned. We have to be
North: 'Outrageous comment'
North Korea's state radio attacked comments by Cohen that
virtually all of the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea would
remain there for the foreseeable future, even if the Koreas
made peace and were united.
"This outrageous comment puts military pressure on us and
reveals the U.S. military forces' dangerous ambition for
domination of the entire Korean peninsula," the radio said.
Cohen went to Panmunjom after talks with South Korean Defense
Minister Kim Dong-jin on how to respond to North Korea's
chronic food shortage.
Later, Cohen met South Korean President Kim Young-sam and
Foreign Minister Yoo Chong-ha to discuss beefing up joint
defenses against the North.
"North Korea continues to build up its military strength and
conduct exercises even though its system is loosening in
every sector of society amid a severe food crisis," Kim told
Meeting with troops
Cohen also had lunch and words of encouragement for soldiers
of the 2nd Infantry Division based near the DMZ.
Over a heaping plate of hot food at the Camp Casey mess hall,
Cohen thanked the troops for their service and suggested the
long standoff between the communist North and capitalist
South was near an end.
"We're very close to the finishing line, seeing a united and
free Korea," Cohen said.
Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae and Reuters contributed to this report.
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