North Korean soldier defects to the South at Joint Security Area: JCS

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump attend a welcoming ceremony

In 1984, North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire after a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the truce village.

The soldier crossed to the south side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, the only portion of the border Demilitarised Zone where forces from the two sides come face-to-face, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

Soldiers from the North have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border but it is rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the Joint Security Area, where border guards of the rival Koreas stand facing each other just metres apart, and be shot by fellow North Korean soldiers. The US has around 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

The defection came less than a week after President Donald Trump made his first official visit to South Korea amid soaring tensions over the growing nuclear and missile threat from the North.

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.

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The soldier's successful escape makes only the fourth defection by a North Korean soldier through the DMZ in the last three years, the BBC reported.

South Korea's military said it has strengthened its vigilance and readiness posture in case of a possible military provocation by the North.

The 1953 armistice that ended the fighting but left the countries technically at war was signed in one of the blue buildings that straddle the Military Demarcation Line. His helicopter had to turn back because of bad weather.

He was taken to hospital with gunshot wounds to his elbow and shoulder, South Korean officials said.

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". The attack prompted Washington to fly nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate North Korea.

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