North Korean soldier shot while defecting to South Korea

Three U.S. aircraft carriers steam in formation in the East Sea leading South Korean and U.S. warships during the allies&apos joint naval exercise on Nov. 12 2017 in this

An elite North Korean soldier stationed at the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone made a bold bolt for freedom Monday, defecting to South Korea despite getting shot twice, the South's military said.

Seo said the North Korean soldier appears to have been shot in five places, adding that he had his first operation on Monday.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the defector drove a vehicle into the northern side of the JSA before approaching an area just 10 meters (33 feet) from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL).

Seo went on to say that at 3:31 p.m., the JCS spotted the North Korean soldier lying in a pile of leaves some 50 meters south of the Military Demarcation Line and at around 3:56 p.m. three South Korean troops approached the North Korean soldier. He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the South's Defense Ministry said.

An official with the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North's border guards fired at least 40 rounds.

While on average more than 1,000 North Koreans defect to South Korea every year, most travel via China and it is unusual for a North Korean to cross the land border with South Korea.

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Over the decades since the peninsula was divided, dozens of North Korean soldiers have fled to the South through the DMZ, which extends for two kilometers either side of the actual borderline.

It wasn't immediately known how serious the soldier's injuries were or why he chose to defect.

President Donald Trump attempted to visit the DMZ during his visit to South Korea last week, although it was not clear if he was heading to the Joint Security Area.

South Korea's military said it has strengthened its vigilance and readiness posture in case of a possible military provocation by the North. In addition, North Korean soldiers could have fired rifles and pistols when he was trying to cross the MDL.

The defection came at a time of heightened tension over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and could escalate animosities between the rival countries. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.

Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, was photographed by North Korean soldiers while he stood inside one of the huts during a visit to the DMZ in March. South Korean soldiers did not return fire.

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