Seoul blames N. Korea for blast, vows re­sponse

S. Korea vows to re­sume pro­pa­ganda broad­casts in re­sponse to blast.


Vow­ing strong re­tal­i­a­tion, South Korea said Mon­day that North Korean sol­diers laid the three mines that ex­ploded last week at the heav­ily for­ti­fied bor­der, maim­ing two South Korean sol­diers.

South Korea’s mil­i­tary, which in­ves­ti­gated the mines, said that Py­ongyang will face un­spec­i­fied “sear­ing” con­se­quences for the mine blasts in the Seoul-con­trolled south­ern part of the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone that has bi­sected the Korean Penin­sula since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The U.S.-led U.N. Com­mand, which also con­ducted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that blamed Py­ongyang for the mines, con­demned what it called vi­o­la­tions of the ar­mistice that ended fight­ing in the Korean War, which still tech­ni­cally con­tin­ues be­cause the par­tic­i­pants have yet to set­tle a peace treaty.

The sol­diers were on a rou­tine pa­trol near a wire fence in the south­ern side of world’s most heav­ily armed bor­der when the ex­plo­sions hap­pened. One of the sol­diers lost both legs, while the other lost one leg.

More than a mil­lion mines are be­lieved to be buried in­side the DMZ, and North Korean mines have oc­ca­sion­ally washed down a swollen river into the South, killing or in­jur­ing civil­ians. But North Korean sol­diers cross­ing the bor­der and plant­ing mines is highly un­usual.

The ex­plo­sions come amid con­tin­u­ing bad feel­ings be­tween the ri­val Koreas over the es­tab­lish­ment of a U.N. of­fice in Seoul tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing the North’s al­leged abysmal hu­man rights con­di­tions. Py­ongyang also re­fuses to re­lease sev­eral South Kore­ans de­tained in the North. Things are ex­pected to get worse next week when Seoul and Washington launch an­nual sum­mer­time mil­i­tary drills, which the al­lies say are rou­tine but that Py­ongyang calls an in­va­sion re­hearsal.

Seoul’s an­nounce­ment on the mines will likely trig­ger a fu­ri­ous re­sponse from Py­ongyang, which has de­nied a slew of pre­vi­ous provo­ca­tions that South Korea has blamed on North Korea. The North typ­i­cally calls the South’s state­ments at­tempts to cre­ate anti-Py­ongyang sen­ti­ments in Seoul. In 2010, a Seoul-led in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion blamed Py­ongyang for tor­pe­do­ing a war­ship and killing 46 South Korean sailors. The North de­nies re­spon­si­bil­ity.

It’s un­clear what re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures Seoul might take for the mine ex­plo­sion. Mil­i­tary strikes are un­likely, as the North has placed a huge por­tion of its ar­tillery within strik­ing dis­tance of the South Korean cap­i­tal of Seoul. South Korean sanc­tions im­posed af­ter the 2010 war­ship sink­ing are a source of ten­sion be­tween the ri­vals. Crit­ics say the mea­sures have also hurt South Korean busi­ness­men who had ear­lier deal­ings with North Korea.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions by South Korea and the Amer­i­can-led U.N. Com­mand showed that splin­ters from the ex­plo­sions were from wood box mines used by North Korea, ac­cord­ing to South Korea’s De­fense Min­istry.

South Korean of­fi­cials say there’s no chance that old mines had dis­lodged and drifted to the South be­cause of rain or shift­ing soil. The area where the sol­diers were pa­trolling is on higher ground than the places where North Korean mines have been pre­vi­ously planted, mean­ing the re­cent mines must have been pur­posely laid there by the North, chief South Korean in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ahn Young-ho told re­porters.

A se­nior South Korean mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, Ku Hongmo, said that Seoul be­lieves North Korean sol­diers se­cretly crossed the bor­der and laid mines be­tween July 23 and Aug. 3, the day be­fore the three mines ex­ploded. But he said that sur­veil­lance cam­eras in the area did not de­tect any sus­pi­cious North Korean ac­tiv­i­ties, ap­par­ently be­cause of bad weather and for­est cover.

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