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(News Focus) DMZ mine detonation ups tension as Koreas mark 70th liberation anniversary

2015/08/10 17:24

SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- The bloody detonation of landmines planted on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone is flaring up military tension across the border, dashing hopes for inter-Korean fence-mending in the year that marks the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from the Japanese colonial rule.

Releasing the result of its investigation into the blasts on Aug. 4, the South Korean military said Monday the communist country was behind the military provocation in the DMZ, which severed the legs of two South Korean staff sergeants.

Citing debris of the mines found at the accident site, the military said the wooden-box mines that exploded were those being used by the North.

They said a couple of North Koreans may have illegally crossed the military demarcation line and come down to the South Korean-side of the DMZ around late last month to secretly bury the mines in South Korea's standard patrol mission area in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

The United Nations Command, tasked with maintaining the armistice on the peninsula, also denounced the provocation, labeling it as a violation of the Armistice Agreement, which prohibits the two Koreas from crossing the MDL and acts of aggression in the DMZ.

The South Korean military also vowed to take merciless retaliation against the mine burying, which they said was mainly intended to derail the joint Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise scheduled for next week between Seoul and Washington.

The annual UFG war simulation, which usually employs about 80,000 South Korean and U.S. troops, has been fodder for inter-Korean bickering recently.

Repeating its previous threats, North Korea said in a commentary carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency that the UFG will entail "tough military counteraction" against the North Korean military.

Ri Tong-il, a spokesman for the North Korean foreign minister, also threatened a second Korean war on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Kuala Lumpur last week, as part of the country's attacks on the joint Seoul-Washington military drills.

With the much-denounced joint exercise set to kick off early next week as planned, the peninsula will likely be catapulted further into tension.

The development is sure to dash hopes for inter-Korean fence-mending that had been growing as both countries mark major historic anniversaries this year, including the 70th anniversary of what is now the two Koreas' liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.

Marking the liberation anniversary on Aug. 15, President Park Geun-hye is expected to come up with messages intended to soothe strained inter-Korean relations.

The recent military provocation, however, may possibly shift Park's focus to stressing South Korea's staunch war-readiness posture against any North Korean military offenses, some sources said.

North Korea's potential test-launch of a long-range missile is also in the pipeline to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of its ruling party's founding on Oct. 10, which will possibly bring the two Koreas close to a flashpoint.