The South’s defense ministry said the incident began Thursday when North Korea fired shells at South Korean military positions.
South Korea said its detection equipment had spotted the trajectory of a suspected North Korean projectile launched at around 3:52 p.m. (0652 GMT), which did not appear to have damaged the loudspeaker or caused any injuries.
The North Korean army said the South fired 36 rounds, six of which landed near its guard posts, and called the South’s firing “reckless provocation”, Pyongyang’s state KCNA news agency said.
Authoritarian North Korea, which has also restarted its own propaganda broadcasts, is extremely sensitive to any criticism of the government run by leader Kim Jong Un, whose family has ruled since the North was founded in 1948.
The North Korean soldiers fired back in an exchange of fire that lasted for about 10 minutes, with no casualties.
When Lee Myung-bak replaced Roh Moo-hyun in Seoul in 2008, South Korea toughened its stance against Pyongyang; implementation of prior agreements was suspended and most inter-Korean projects were halted.
The threat, along with an exchange of fire earlier Thursday, represent a significant ratcheting up of tension on the Korean Peninsula.
“The ball is in North Korea’s court now after South Korea retaliated with shells”, Koh Yu Hwan, professor of North Korea studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said by phone.
Park is also due to visit the U.S.in October, having previously played down suggestions that Seoul has to choose between Beijing and Washington. “If North Korea has come to the conclusion that their diplomatic charm campaign is not going to work, they need to go on a different direction”, Gause said.
For years, the loudspeakers had blared out messages extolling the virtues of South Korea, before the practise was discontinued by mutual agreement in 2004 during a period of rapprochement between the two Koreas. South Korea returned fire, but no casualties were reported.
Gause views the recent North Korean provocation as a means to gauge the South’s response. The landmine explosions resulted in one soldier losing both legs and another soldier one leg.
The two nations are technically still at war because the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.