Monday, 20 June 2011

South Korean troops shoot at plane near border

Gyodong island is located near the North-South Korea border
South Korean troops have fired at a passenger jet after mistaking it for a North Korean fighter jet.

The incident took place at dawn Friday 17th June, as the Asiana Airlines plane came over Gyodong island, during its approach to Incheon International Airport, which is west of Seoul and some 25 miles south of the North-South Korean border.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that the jet was flying out of range of the rifles, and that all 119 people on board were safe.

It is reported that the two young marines shot their K2 rifles into the air for around 10 minutes, and shot over 90 bullets.

The incident highlights the tension in the Korean peninsula, which has been high for over a year, after North Korea reportedly sunk the South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, last March. US and South Korean naval drills in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea in November resulted in an artillery attack by the North on Yeonpyeong Island, in which four people were killed.

Tensions have remained high since, and South Korean forces are building up on a number of islands in the Yellow Sea within sight of North Korea's coast.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, South Korea has also moved missiles to within range of Pyongyang, and North Korea recently tested one of its short-range missiles in the Yellow Sea.

South Korean leaders, criticised domestically for their apparently lacklustre response to the North actions, have been cranking up the rhetoric recently. South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak last week called on South Korean forces to show 'fighting spirit'. His defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, warned of a 'surprise provocation' by North Korea.

A military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Lee Song-il, said they were surprised that the two young marines who fired on the passenger jet were so determined to engage in combat, although given that the military has been put on high alert, their anxiety should perhaps not be surprising.

“They were so anxious” Lee said, “There will be no charges against them.”

Military sources have said the plane was flying off course, while Asiana has described the plane's route as normal. Regardless of the plane's exact positioning, the incident demonstrates the possibility for dangerous miscalculation that currently exists on the Korean peninsula.

Sources: BBC, Christian Science Monitor, the Telegraph

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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