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North Korean soldier defects to South via DMZ

Reuters SEOUL (Reuters) — South Korean guards fired warning shots across the heavily militarized border with North Korea on Thursday as a soldier from the North defected in thick fog, complicating efforts to ease tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

A South Korean defense ministry official said up to 20 warning shots were fired as North Korean troops approached too near the “military demarcation line” at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), apparently in search of the missing soldier.

Thursday’s defection came about five weeks after a North Korean soldier suffered critical gunshot wounds during a defection dash across the border.

Two North Korean civilians were also found in a fishing boat on Wednesday and had sought to defect, officials in the South said.

That brings the total number of North Koreans who have defected by taking dangerous routes either directly across the border or by sea to 15 so far this year, including two other soldiers. That is three times the number last year, according to South Korean officials.

Seoul says more than 880 North Koreans have defected to the rich, democratic South so far this year, but the vast majority have taken a less dangerous route through China.

There was no immediate comment from the secretive North about the latest incidents.

In Thursday’s defection, a low-ranking soldier crossed the border near a South Korean guard post, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman, Roh Jae Cheon, said. No shots were fired at the soldier.

Surveillance equipment detected him despite heavy fog that limited visibility to about 100 meters, Roh said.Speech

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