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North Korea soldiers
North Korean soldiers look at the South side while U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo visit at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)

Shots were fired at the DMZ as a North Korean soldier defected to the South

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South Korean guards on Thursday fired warning shots across their nation’s border with North Korea, according to Reuters.

Reuters on Thursday reported that the incident occurred when a North Korean soldier defected to the South amid thick fog.

A South Korean defense ministry official on Thursday said up to 20 warning shots were fired as North Korean troops came too near the “military demarcation line.”

The boundary sits along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, a source of frequent tensions between both countries.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman on Thursday said that the low-ranking North Korean soldier crossed the border near a South Korean guard post.

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Roh Jae-cheon added that no shots were fired at the defector, who was detected by surveillance equipment despite heavy fog limiting visibility to roughly 110 yards.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Thursday said that maritime police there had found two North Korean men drifting in a small boat off the coast Wednesday.

“[They] expressed their willingness to defect, a ministry official said, adding that the pair of civilians’ claims for asylum are being investigated.

The total number of North Koreans who defected South so far this year sits at 15 following Thursday’s events.

The group includes two other North Korean soldiers, and South Korean officials noted that the amount of defections is triple the number from 2016.

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Tempers are flaring on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang’s repeated ballistic missile and nuclear weapon tests this year.

Thursday’s incident may also complicate South Korea’s efforts to smoothly host the 2018 Winter Games, which launch in Pyeongchang in February.

The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a result of the Korean War from 1950-1953 which divided the peninsula into two countries.

North Korea has repeatedly vowed to gain nuclear weapons capable of striking the U.S., and it also routinely threatens key American allies in Asia like Japan and South Korea.

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