North Korea plants landmines in Demilitarized Zone

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Life in a Bunker by the DMZ

North Korea has planted new landmines in the Demilitarized Zone, near the "truce village" of Panmunjom, which is controlled by the two Koreas and the United States.

News of the move by Kim Jong Un's government comes the day after a threatened nuclear strike at the United States. North Korea is upset over a massive joint U.S.-South Korea military exercise that began Monday, on top of already deteriorating relations with the U.S. and the South.

"North Korean's military was seen laying several landmines last week on the North's side of the Bridge of No Return," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified South Korean government source as saying. Yonhap reported the mines were laid on the North's side of border.

"The presence of any device or munition on or near the bridge seriously jeopardizes the safety" of those near the border, the U.N. Command, which administers Panmunjom and is headed by the U.S. military, said in a statement.

The U.N. Command added that it "strongly condemns" this action. North Korean state media did not immediately respond to the South Korean and U.N. Command statements.

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Panmunjom is where the armistice was signed that halted the 1950-53 Korean War, on July 27, 1953. The armistice only suspended hostilities, however. The war is technically still ongoing. Panmunjom is now a popular tourist destination for foreigners and Koreans from both sides.

"It is my profound conviction that under these circumstances acceptance of the armistice is required of the United Nations and the Republic of Korea. We would not be justified in prolonging the war with all the misery that it involves in the hope of achieving, by force, the unification of Korea," President Dwight Eisenhower wrote in a June 1953 letter to South Korean President Syngman Rhee, justifying U.S. support for a negotiated peace.

Under the Korean armistice, the two sides are barred from carrying out any hostile acts within or across the 2.5-mile-wide DMZ; accusations have flown from both sides over the years that this provision in armistice has been broken, but the document has helped ensure relative piece for over six decades.

South Korean officials also reported Tuesday that three North Koreans who were found on a boat off South Korea's western coast earlier this month have expressed a desire to resettle in the South; the three were joined in defection this month by a North Korea deputy ambassador, who is related to one of North Korea's founding families.

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Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

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