North Korea soldier defects to the South
South Korean guards fired up to 20 warning shots at North Korean troops searching for a soldier who had defected yesterday, Yonhap news agency said, after officials in the South confirmed the latest defection across the heavily militarized border.
Dec. 21’s defection came about five weeks after another North Korean soldier suffered critical gunshot wounds during a dash across the border on Nov. 13.
Two North Korean civilians found in a fishing boat had also sought to defect, officials in the South said on Dec. 21. There was no immediate comment from the secretive North about the latest incidents.
The defections come at a time of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula because of North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, which it is pursuing in defiance of international pressure that includes United Nations resolutions.
In the latest North Korean military defection, a low-ranking soldier crossed the border at around 8 a.m., South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said. No shots were fired at the soldier, Roh said.
Surveillance equipment detected the defecting soldier despite heavy fog that limited visibility to about 100 meters, Roh later told a briefing.
“Today a North Korean soldier defected through our military’s general outpost in the center-western region,” Roh said.
“Our military secured his safety, and a questioning will be conducted by related agencies to find out the background of his defection and motive, etc,” he said.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said maritime police had found two North Korean men drifting in a small boat off the coast on Dec. 20.
The pair “expressed their willingness to defect,” a ministry official said. Their claim for asylum was being investigated, the official said.