One worrisome detail to emerge from a shooting incident last week involving a defecting North Korea soldier is the current absence of direct communication channels between the two Koreas at the Joint Security Area (JSA) that could stop potentially dangerous military incidents from escalating into war.
Korea JoongAng Daily said in a Thursday story that North Korea violated the United Nations Armistice Agreement twice last week by firing weapons across the so-called Military Demarcation Line (MDL) inside the JSA and when one of its soldiers temporarily crossed the line while chasing the defector in the November 13 incident. The finding was made following an investigation by the United Nations Command (UNC).
JoongAng noted that Pyongyang severed all channels of dialogue with the South after Seoul closed the jointly-run Kaesong Industrial Complex in February 2016. South Korea shut the complex after Pyongyang conducted a fourth nuclear test that January and followed up with a long-range ballistic missile launch.
Hence, there’s no way for the two sides to communicate to prevent another exchange of fire from spiraling into a more serious incident or even war.
In the alleged armistice violations, a UNC source reportedly told JoongAng that a UN official had to walk out to the MDL area on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. and read out its statement notifying North Korea about its recent violations of the Armistice Agreement. North Korean soldiers recorded the scene with a camcorder, the UNC source said.
The South Korean newspaper says it’s unlikely that North Korea will respond to the UN protest. Pyongyang withdrew from the UNC Military Armistice Commission in April 1994 and declared the Armistice Agreement defunct in March 2013. JoongAng says this leaves little hope it will take the UN investigation seriously.
In the November 13 defection incident, North Korean border guards reportedly fired about 40 rounds at the fleeing solder who was struck four times as he crossed to the South.
The defector is now recovering at a South Korean hospital.