North Korea recently planted land mines that maimed 2 soldiers, investigators say
SEOUL, South Korea — Land mines that seriously injured two South Korean soldiers last week had been recently planted by North Korea, the United Nations Command said Monday.
The 1st Infantry Division soldiers were conducting a routine morning patrol south of the Demilitarized Zone near Paju, South Korea, on Aug. 4 when the three land mines exploded. Their injuries were not life-threatening, but one soldier lost both legs below the knee and the other’s foot was amputated, according to South Korean media reports.
In the hours after the blasts, South Korean officials said there was no possibility of North Korean involvement, and recent heavy rains might have displaced the land mines along the 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide DMZ.
A special investigation team from the UNC Military Armistice Commission was ordered by UNC commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who also heads U.S. Forces Korea, to examine the incident. The team included members from South Korea, the U.S., New Zealand and Colombia, and was observed by Swiss and Swedish members of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.
North Korea had placed wooden box land mines along the known South Korean patrol route, according to the UNC’s investigation, conducted Aug. 5-6.
“Additionally, the investigation determined that the devices were recently emplaced, and ruled out the possibility that these were legacy land mines which had drifted from their original placements due to rain or shifting soil,” said a UNC statement issued Monday.
UNC said North Korea had violated the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean conflict, and that it would call for general officer level dialogue with the North Korean military. Because the Korean War did not end with a peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war.
South Korea on Monday said it would hold the North accountable for military provocations, and urged it to apologize and punish those responsible for the incident.
"As previously warned on many occasions, our military will make North Korea pay the equally pitiless penalty for their provocations," the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that was reported by Yonhap News.
The UNC statement comes as the U.S. and South Korea prepare for the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise later this month. Dates for the annual computer simulation drill have yet to be announced, but the war games typically prompt denouncements and threats from the North.