Video: Warning shots between the Koreas

NBC News and news services
updated 10/7/2006 11:43:33 AM ET 2006-10-07T15:43:33

South Korean troops fired warning shots Saturday after five North Korean soldiers crossed a boundary in the Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries, South Korean military officials said.

The incident occurred shortly before noon near a stream in the largely deserted no man’s land, and came amid tensions over North Korea’s recent announcement that it plans to test its first nuclear bomb.

The U.N. Security Council warned North Korea on Friday of unspecified consequences if it carries out a nuclear test and urged the secretive, communist nation to abandon all nuclear weapons as it promised last year and cancel plans to detonate a device.

The council acted amid speculation that a nuclear test could come on Sunday, the anniversary of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s appointment as head of the Communist party in 1997. Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi, currently in Washington, told the Japan’s TV Asahi: “Based on the development so far, it would be best to view that a test is possible this weekend.”

However, a North Korean foreign policy analyst told NBC News " it's not time yet" to conduct a nuclear test.

Asked to comment on the heightened international concern over reports that Pyongyang could conduct a nuclear test this weekend, the North Korean analyst said on Saturday:

"As to when we will conduct a nuclear test, it depends on how President George W. Bush reacts to the ultimatum..We can see some good results already.  President Bush and his Vice-President are now more careful with their words.  I think, it is not the time yet for the test."

The analyst, who did not wish to be identified, is engaged in developing policy options for dealing with the United States for North Korea's Foreign Ministry.

South Koreans fire warning shots
Meantime, it was unclear whether the North Korean advance Saturday was intended as a provocation, an official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on condition of anonymity, citing official policy.

“It’s not clear whether it was intentional or whether it was to catch fish,” he said, adding that four of the North Korean soldiers were unarmed, while one was carrying a rifle.

They advanced about 30 yards past the Military Demarcation Line separating the two armies before retreating to their own side after South Korean forces fired about 40 warning shots, the official said.

The South Korean side also broadcast warning announcements from speakers positioned along the DMZ, telling any advancing North Korean troops to turn back.

There were no injuries, the official said.

Test dependent upon U.S. sanctions
With tensions rising, Kim met hundreds of top North Korean top military commanders and urged them to bolster the nation’s defenses, as officers cheered, “Fight at the cost of our lives!” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported on Friday.

A North Korea expert in China, the North’s closest ally, said only the removal of American economic sanctions against Pyongyang could dissuade the country from carrying out a nuclear test.

“North Korea has already made a decision to carry out a test,” said Li Dunqiu, of China’s State Council Development Research Center, a Cabinet-level think tank. But “if the U.S. removes sanctions ... then tensions can be eased. Otherwise launching a nuclear test is unavoidable for North Korea.”

The United States imposed economic sanctions on North Korea last year to punish it for alleged counterfeiting and money laundering. For the last 13 months, North Korea has boycotted six-nation talks aimed at persuading it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

North Korea said Tuesday it decided to act in the face of what it claimed was “the U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war,” but gave no date for the test. Washington has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading North Korea.

Both China and Russia have urged the United States and North Korea to hold talks, which Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Friday “could be useful in resolving the situation.” But he said U.S. Ambassador John Bolton informed the council that there would be no North Korean-U.S. talks except in the margins of resumed six-party talks.

Bolton said the Security Council needs to adopt a long-term strategy to deal with North Korea but the top U.S. priority now is to stop a nuclear test.

“We take the threat by North Korea seriously. We don’t think this is an attention-getting device of people waving their arm to say ‘see me, see me.’ We think this would be consistent with the unfortunate logic that North Korea has been following,” he said.

NBC News' Eric Baculinao and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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