Pentagon Says South Korea Didn’t Start DMZ Gunfire Exchange
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Pentagon denied Thursday that South Korean soldiers did anything to precipitate an exchange of gunfire earlier this week across the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.
Pentagon spokesman Robert Sims also said the U.S. Army had no evidence of any foul play in the deaths of three American soldiers who apparently drowned during an unrelated night-time exercise while fording a river in South Korea on Monday.
According to Sims, the exchange of gunfire between North and South Korean soldiers guarding the DMZ occurred on Tuesday and lasted about seven minutes.
″There was an exchange of gunfire around 8 p.m. (local time) this past Tuesday,″ Sims said. ″North Korean troops fired about 200 rounds of machine gun fire at two southern guard posts.
″The guard posts fired upon are inside the 2 1/2 -mile wide DMZ,″ he continued. ″North Korean claims that South Korean forces started the firing are not true.
″The United Nations Command Civil Police took appropriate self-defense firing measures, which I interpret to mean that they fired back after the North Koreans initiated firing.″
Sims said there were no casualties reported by South Korean officials as a result of the exchange.
″Those fired on were South Korean troops under the operational control of the United Nations command. A multi-national investigation team composed of members of the United Nations command was dispatched to the scene. The United Nations command considers this action a serious violation of the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War.″
Turning to the deaths of the three soldiers, the Pentagon spokesman repeated a statement released by U.S. authorities in South Korea, noting the three men had disappeared during a routine exercise in the Hantan River area north of Seoul.
″The three soldiers drowned during a field-training exercise,″ Sims said. ″The incident is still under investigation. Thus far, we have no evidence to refute the initial finding of death by drowning.″
Sims said the Army had no evidence to suggest either foul play or negligence.
The Army has identified the victims, all members of the 2nd Infantry Division, as 2nd Lt. Reginald F. Montgomery of Charleston, S.C., Staff Sgt. James G. Marshall of East Patchogue, N.Y., and Sgt. Donald R. Steward of Springfield, Ore.