Tensions Ease Between North and South KoreaAugust 25, 2015 in North Korea, South Korea
High level negotiations between Seoul and Pyongyang have eased tensions on the Korean Peninsula, where the possibility of a military clash has loomed large since a rare exchange of fire across the border late last week.
In recent weeks relations between the two states have became increasingly hostile. Earlier this month, two members of a South Korean border patrol were seriously injured in a mine blast, an incident described by Seoul as a cowardly act of provocation which merited “harsh” retaliation. Pyongyang was similarly incensed by the commencement of joint military exercises between South Korea and the US – an annual event which the North believes is preparation for war and the eventual occupation of their capital.
These exercises were temporarily suspended after an exchange of artillery fire across the border on Thursday 20 August. According to South Korea’s defence ministry, shortly before 4pm local time, a single North Korean artillery shell was fired across the border. Minutes later, this was followed by several more shells which fell harmlessly into the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). In retaliation, South Korea fired dozens of artillery rounds back across the border while placing its troops on maximum alert and ordering the residents of Yeoncheon county to evacuate their homes. So far no one from either side of the border is reported to have been injured in this exchange of fire.
After several troubling days, the standoff ended earlier today when an agreement was reached by negotiators in Panmunjom, an abandoned village north of the Military Demarcation Line where the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953. Talks began on Saturday evening after Seoul passed a deadline imposed by Pyongyang to end propaganda broadcasts across the border or face the possibility of military action. The South eventually agreed to this demand and in turn, the North agreed to voice its regret over the injuries sustained by the two South Korean soldiers. Former South Korean diplomat and current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has congratulated both sides for speedily resolving the crisis before it was allowed to escalate and expressed the hope that the two countries could use this decision as a springboard to solve other problems which affect the troubled peninsula.