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S. Korea fires warning shots at North balloons

The Associated Press

A South Korean K-55 self-propelled howitzer fires during an annual exercise in Paju, near the border with North Korea, on Monday.

AFPSEOUL (AFP-Jiji) — Flying objects that prompted South Korean forces to fire warning shots this week appeared to be balloons carrying propaganda leaflets from the North, Seoul’s military said Wednesday.

On Tuesday the defense ministry said troops had opened fire when an unidentified flying object entered the country’s airspace across the tense border with North Korea, with a military official saying it appeared to be a drone.

Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun on Wednesday told journalists that detailed examinations pointed to “balloon-like objects,” 10 of which were observed flying with the winds in the border area. Some of them traveled into the South’s territory, he said.

Both Koreas — plus anti-Pyongyang activists based in the South — send leaflets across the border, tied to gas-filled balloons.

But Moon ruled out the possibility of the balloons coming from the South, saying that both Seoul and the southern-based activists use cylindrical balloons, rather than spherical.

Lee Min Bok, a North Korean defector-turned-activist, told AFP that cylindrical balloons made of plastic cost much less than round rubber ones.

“If the suspected balloons were spherical, then I suspect they were from North Korea,” he said.

Tensions are high in the region over the nuclear-armed North’s weapons ambitions.

South Korea has repeatedly accused the North of flying suspected spy drones across the tense border.

Trump: Kim a madman

WASHINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. President Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a telephone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a transcript of the conversation released by U.S. media Tuesday.

A White House readout of the April 29 call characterized it as a “very friendly conversation.” Days after the conversation, Trump said publicly that he would be “honored” to meet with Kim.

But in the call, Trump hinted at a possible dramatic escalation on the Korean Peninsula.

“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 — but we don’t want to use it,” the U.S. leader said, citing “two nuclear submarines” the Pentagon sent to the area last month.

Transcribed by the Philippine government, the conversation was released by The Washington Post and The Intercept.

Trump also queried Duterte about whether he believed Kim was “stable or not stable.” The Philippine leader responded that their North Korean counterpart’s “mind is not working and he might just go crazy one moment.”

Kim has a “dangerous toy in his hands that could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind,” he added.

‘His rockets keep crashing’

But Trump appeared reassured that North Korea’s recent missile tests had failed, saying that “all his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news.”

Turning to China and its ability to counter the nuclear threat, Trump pressed Duterte to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert pressure.

“I hope China solves the problem. They really have the means because a great degree of their stuff come through China,” Trump said, adding: “But if China doesn’t do it, we will do it.”

Duterte agreed. However, he cautioned, starkly, that “the other option is a nuclear blast, which is not good for everybody.”Speech

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