The UN Command, led by the United States, found that North and South Korea were both guilty of violating armistice agreements following a recent incident involving gunfire along the Demilitarised Zone between the two countries. The investigations into the shooting that occurred on May 3 at the border, conducted by a multinational special investigations team, concluded this week, according to a Reuters report.
What was this shooting about?
This shooting, the first of its kind in approximately two and a half years, was in violation of the armistice agreement which brought a halt to the Korean War in 1953. According to reports, there were no casualties as a result of the shooting. On May 3, South Korea announced that the two countries had been involved in an exchange of gunfire early in the morning when North Korean soldiers reportedly opened fire at a South Korean guard post at the DMZ. South Korea said it had retaliated by firing 10 shots as a warning towards North Korean posts at the border.
According to the announcement, South Korea had also warned North Korea through broadcast messages that the firings were a violation of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement that had come about following a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. One of the terms of this agreement, called the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018, said there would be reduced military tensions between the two countries.
How have the two countries responded?
Following the shooting, South Korea had stated that it was trying to investigate the shooting. It also said messages had been sent to North Korea to find out more about the causes, but they had not received any responses. North Korea did not separately address the issue. According to subsequent reports in South Korean news publications, the shootings from North Korea did not appear to be intentional. Prior to this, shootings occurred across the DMZ in December 2017 when a North Korean soldier defected to the other side.
In November 2017, a month prior to this incident, another North Korean soldier defected only to be shot at, as per news reports. The defector required medical supervision following his defection to South Korea. In January 2016, there was another incident of warning shots being fired by South Korea at the border at what was a suspected drone from North Korea.
What did UN Command find in investigations?
The UN Command, presently helmed by General Robert B. Adams of the US, that oversees affairs pertaining to the DMZ, led a multinational special investigation regarding the latest shootings incident at DMZ. A statement released by the UN Command stated that North Korea had been invited to share information regarding this incident, but no formal response had been provided by the country to the investigating team. The investigation said North Korea had violated the armistice of 1953 by firing four rounds, as had South Korea by firing five rounds in return. The report also said investigations had been unable to determine whether the shootings that originated from North Korea had been intentional.
One of the roles of the UN Command is to ensure the terms of the armistice are being agreed upon by both North Korea and South Korea. Incidents such as these that involve shootings and other similar disturbances, violate the terms of the armistice agreement. Following the release of the UN Command’s report this week, South Korea released a statement implying that it did not agree with the statement and that the UN Command ended the investigations without fully looking into North Korea’s role in the shootings. South Korea also defended its stance of returning fire, saying it had been operating according to protocol.
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What is the Korean Armistice Agreement?
The 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, was a ceasefire though there was no official declaration of the end of the war, and the conflict has continued, without fighting between the parties. The events surrounding the Korean War and the ceasefire are extremely complex and cannot fully be explained without a deep dive into the region’s history and politics and the Second World War.
Many do not realise that South Korea, under President Syngman Rhee, did not sign the armistice. In the absence of an official peace treaty, as is the norm, the two officially remain at war. However, in December 1991, North and South Korea signed a pact where they agreed to refrain from agressions, in a step that would lead to better relations and a potential resolution of the situation. Since the armistice was enforced, there have been several violations of it from both North and South Korea, leading to persistent tensions between the two countries. However, despite this, there have also been a thawing of relations, particularly between South Korea’s present leader Moon Jae-In and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
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