May 3, 2020 - World

North and South Korean soldiers exchange gunfire across DMZ

South Korean troops patrolling the DMZ on April 23.

South Korean troops patrolling the DMZ on April 23. Photo by Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

North and South Korean troops exchanged fire across the Demilitarized Zone on Sunday. The South Korean military suffered no casualties, and officials said it’s unlikely that North Korea had any casualties, according to AP.

Why it matters: It's the first violent confrontation between the two countries on the border since 2017, and it comes after weeks of conflicting reports about the health of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Details: The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said in a statement that North Korean soldiers fired at a South Korean guard post inside the border zone.

  • South Korean troops responded with a total of 20 rounds of warning shots on two occasions before issuing a warning broadcast, per AP.
  • South Korean officials believe North Korea’s firing was not a calculated provocation, though the Seoul military reported that it will continue examining whether there was any motivation for the action.

Background: The DMZ is the most militarized border in the world, acting as a 155-mile-long buffer zone between the two countries with mines, guard posts and nearly 2 million troops on both sides.

  • North and South Korea began destroying some guard posts and eliminating mines in 2018 in an effort to reduce tensions, but diplomacy has stalled since the breakdown of nuclear talks between Kim and President Trump.

The big picture: The exchange comes a day after North Korea broadcast a video of Kim visiting a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang.

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