N Korea border shooting likely an accident: Official

An exchange of gunfire across the heavily armed border between the two Koreas last week was likely an accident and not a provocation by the North, a top lawmaker and former army general said on Monday.

Last Updated: Nov 01, 2010, 11:40 AM IST

Seoul: An exchange of gunfire across the heavily armed border between the two Koreas last week was likely an accident and not a provocation by the North, a top lawmaker and former army general said on Monday.

Border guards fired a total of five shots across the Demilitarised Zone on Friday, threatening to spoil conciliatory moves on the divided peninsula after tensions simmered for months over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

Media reports and experts have played down the skirmish, and there have been no signs of it escalating into a greater confrontation.

"We`re going to need to look at the result of the investigation on this, but I don`t think there was much of an intention," said Grand National Party member Hwang Jin-ha, who sits on parliament`s intelligence and North Korea committees.

The United Nations has sent its own investigation team to the site of the skirmish.

"I don`t think we need to link this incident to other matters," added Hwang, a retired army general.

The South Korean capital is on heightened alert ahead of next week`s G20 summit of the world`s leading economies over concerns Pyongyang may try to create an incident to embarrass its rival.

The North has carried out provocations in the past to coincide with high-profile international events in the South.

Washington has pressed Beijing to use its influence over Pyongyang not to try to create an incident in the run up to the summit, a senior U.S. official said in China, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is holding talks with Chinese officials.
Ties between the two Koreas sank to their lowest level in more than a decade this year when a South Korean navy ship was torpedoed in March, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang denies it was behind the attack.

But tensions have eased in the past few weeks, with the South offering its first substantial package of aid to its impoverished neighbor, and the start of state-backed Red Cross talks to discuss humanitarian projects.
At the weekend, 100 aging South Koreans and their families met with relatives they had been separated from since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The reunions, which are taking place for the first time in more than a year, will also involve 100 North Koreans seeking family members living in the South.

Bureau Report