Korean soldier defects to S. Korea via truce line

The soldier was shot as he defected to South Korea

A North Korean soldier was shot by his fellow troops as he was defecting to the south across the demilitarised zone but still managed to successfully cross the border.

"In the afternoon today, a North Korean soldier defected from a guard post on the North Korean side of the JSA toward our side and our military took him", the Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified military official as saying.

The soldier drove a jeep toward a guard post in the Joint Security Area just after 3 p.m. on Monday, said Col. Roh Jae-cheon, a spokesman for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. He got out of the vehicle and ran.

According to the South Korean military there was no exchange of fire across the border, and the UNC statement stressed that no South Korean or USA forces were harmed.

The guards crawled toward him and took him to the back of Freedom House.

"He has at least six gunshot wounds on his body and the penetrating wound in the abdomen is the most serious", Lee Cook-Jong told reporters.

"We will have to ride out some crucial moments over the next 10 days", Lee said. Seven of his internal organs were affected by the wounds.

Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years.

"They really want to know what is his end game", said DiMaggio, a scholar at New America who specializes in talking with rogue regimes and has spent almost two decades in secret discussions with the North Koreans.

It is very rare for the North's troops to defect at the truce village, a major tourist attraction bisected by the demarcation line and the only part of the frontier where forces from the two sides come face-to-face.

Suzanne DiMaggio, a director at the think tank New America, told Politico that North Korean officials are confused by the U.S. president's increasingly "erratic behaviour" and "really want to know what his end game is". Jointly controlled by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea, the DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. The incident left three North Korean soldiers and one South Korean soldier dead.

Vice President Mike Pence visited the area in September, warning Pyongyang not to test the United States' "strength and resolve".

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