Late Thursday night North Korea exchanged fire with South Korea over a loudspeaker that has been blaring anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts. Seoul’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the South Korean military responded by firing “tens” of 155mm artillery rounds. The projectile did not appear to have damaged the loudspeaker or caused any injuries. Following the incident, the South Korean Ministry of Defense said it had received a warning from its Northern neighbor to stop the propaganda broadcasts in 48 hours or it would “start military action.” Tensions have increased over the past few weeks after two South Korean soldiers were seriously wounded by landmines in the demilitarized zone. Al Jazeera’s Fawcett said that in response to the landmine blast, South Korea restarted using loudspeakers for anti-Pyongyang propaganda, a first step in their retaliation.
North Korea pumped its own propaganda broadcasts over the border on Monday, the same day South Korea started military exercises with the United States and other countries. Pyongyang says it views the drills as a prelude to an invasion. Both countries have exchanged fire in the past at tense moments. In November 2010, North Korea shelled an island near the countries disputed maritime border, killing two South Korean marines. They also traded fire in October 2014. A clash took place between patrol boats in the Yellow Sea, and then another flared days later over land after North Korean gunners apparently targeted balloons carrying leaflets critical of the country’s reclusive regime.
South Korea’s military raised its alert status to the highest level. There was no mention of the firing in North Korean state media, which does not typically make immediate comments on events. The suspected North Korean projectile landed in an area about 35 miles (56km) north of Seoul in the western part of the border zone, the defence ministry said. South Korean residents in the area were ordered to evacuate, according to the Yonhap news agency. North Korea on Saturday demanded that the south halt the broadcasts or face military action, and on Monday began conducting its own broadcasts.
The Koreas’ mine-strewn DMZ is a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war. Thursday’s exchange of fire came amid ongoing annual joint US and South Korean military exercises, which began on Monday and which North Korea regards as preparation for war. The projectile did not appear to have damaged the loudspeaker or caused any injuries. Following the incident, the South Korean Ministry of Defense said it had received a warning from its Northern neighbor to stop the propaganda broadcasts in 48 hours or it would “start military action.”