(ATTN: RECASTS lead; ADDS more details, background info in throughout, photo)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- Several gunshots from North Korea hit a South Korean guard post inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Sunday, prompting the South to fire back, but the North's firings do not appear to have been intentional, an official said.
South Korean soldiers on guard duty at the unit in the central border town of Cheorwon heard gunshots at around 7:41 a.m. and found four bullet marks on a wall of the guard post, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In accordance with the response manual, the military then fired a total of 20 shots in response -- 10 rounds each time -- and issued broadcast warnings, it added. No casualties or damage to South Korean facilities were reported.
It is not known if North Korea sustained any damage.
"We also sent a notice to the North Korean side via the inter-Korean communication line at around 9:35 a.m., and called for its explanation," a JCS officer said.
North Korea has given no response yet.
The military is closely looking into the incident to learn more details by analyzing pieces of evidence, including shells found at the scene, as well as the North's motivations for the firing. It does not appear to be an intentional provocation, according to the officer.
"It was quite foggy and the North Korean soldiers usually rotate shifts around that time," the JCS officer said, adding that no unusual movements by the North's military have been detected.
The South Korean authorities made it clear that the incident is in violation of the bilateral military accord of the Comprehensive Military Agreement signed in September 2018, and urged the North to fully abide by the agreement.
Under the accord, the two Koreas set up land, maritime and ground buffer zones and agreed to halt all hostile acts against each other, aimed at reducing tensions and building trust.
It is the first reported exchange of gunfire between the two Koreas along the border since 2017, when the North fired bullets at one of its soldiers who was fleeing to the South.
The incident came amid stalled inter-Korean relations and one day after the North ended mounting rumors about leader Kim Jong-un's health and whereabouts by reporting his first public appearance in nearly three weeks.
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