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N. Korea must be held to account for mine blasts: British FM

All Headlines 17:39 August 11, 2015

PAJU, South Korea, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) -- British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Tuesday that North Korea must be held accountable for a recent land mine explosion that left two South Korean soldiers seriously injured.

He stressed that the North's provocation is a violation of the Armistice Agreement that effectively ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Hammond, who is on a two-day official trip to South Korea, made the remarks during a visit to Gloster Hill Memorial Park, a site honoring British servicemen killed in the conflict.

"We've condemned this unprovoked attack. And North Koreans must be held to account for the breach of the armistice," he told reporters.

Three wooden-box landmines exploded inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a buffer area dividing the two Koreas, on Aug. 4, severely injuring two South Korean staff sergeants.

South Korea has demanded that the North apologize and punish those responsible, but Pyongyang has yet to make any comment on the attack.

"The actions of the DPRK threaten stability in this region and the region is very important to us," Hammond said, citing Britain's trade and commercial interests in Asia. DPRK is the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Earlier in the day, the secretary visited the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ where soldiers from either side stand guard across the border.

"To see these guys standing eyeball to eyeball a few meters apart" was "amazing," Hammond said.

In remarks released ahead of that trip, he "unreservedly" condemned the North Korean attack.

"I support the South Korean Government's call for an urgent explanation from the North and commend its restraint in the face of provocation. My sympathies are with the Republic of Korea's two injured soldiers," he said.

Hammond was in South Korea for the second round of strategic talks with his counterpart, Yun Byung-se.

The talks took place Monday, during which the two sides agreed to develop their partnership in weapons development and trade, among other areas, according to South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

hague@yna.co.kr
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