N. KOREAN TROOPS CROSS DMZ IN 2ND ARMISTICE VIOLATION.
For the second straight day, North Korea moved armed troops Saturday into the buffer zone with South Korea. U.S. and U.N. officials said there was no evidence of an imminent threat, and North Korea described its actions as defensive.
The South Korean Defense Ministry said about 260 soldiers entered the demilitarized zone at 7 p.m. and left three hours later without incident.
American and United Nations military forces in South Korea said seven trucks carrying about 120 soldiers and an undetermined number of utility vehicles entered the area.
The troops occupied ``fighting positions'' they had prepared the night before and appeared to place several mortars of undetermined caliber in the area, said a statement from combined U.S. and U.N. military command in Seoul.
Jim Coles, a spokesman for the force, said it was evaluating the incursion, which violated the armistice ending the Korean War. The two sides have never signed a permanent peace treaty and are still technically at war.
It was the second time North Korea has violated the 43-year-old agreement since announcing Thursday that it would no longer observe it.
On Friday, about 130 North Korean soldiers armed with mortars and machine guns entered the zone at 6 p.m. and stayed 2-1/2 hours before leaving, the Defense Ministry in Seoul said.
In both cases the northern soldiers entered the zone at Panmunjom, the village where the armistice was signed. It remains the site of infrequent but almost always testy talks between the former combatants.
The U.S.-led U.N. military command said it was trying to contact North Korea's People's Army today to protest the armistice violations. An attempt Saturday was unsuccessful because North Korea's duty officer in Panmunjom refused to accept a hot line call.
U.S. officials in Washington and Seoul called the violations serious, but, noting that North Korea has made similar incursions in the past, said they appeared to pose no risk of renewed fighting on the divided peninsula.
Nevertheless, South Korea's president convened an emergency meeting of his national security advisers Saturday. Afterward, President Kim Young-sam sought to reassure South Koreans, saying they should not be alarmed at North Korea's ``provocation.''
On Saturday, North Korea defended its actions as ``self-defensive.''
A Minju Josun newspaper analysis said: ``The countermeasure is only too legitimate, now that we can no longer unilaterally observe the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement relating to the demilitarized zone along the military demarcation line.''
The analysis, reported by North's official Korea Central News Agency, did not specify whether the ``countermeasure'' referred to the movement of armed troops or the dismissal of the armistice.
North Korea announced Thursday that it would ``give up its duty'' of jointly controlling the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone that stretches across the peninsula.
That prompted South Korea and the U.N. military command in Seoul to order increased surveillance of the border to watch for any massing of northern troops and arms. None has been observed.
The increase in the so-called Watch Condition to a Level 2 was the highest in 15 years, but affected mostly military intelligence and other units assigned to watch the tense border. No major southern troop movements or mobilizations were involved.
Most of the 37,000 American military personnel in South Korea were not affected by the heightened security alert.
The United States, which led a U.N. force in defense of the South after North Korea invaded in 1950, has maintained a strong military presence since the armistice in 1953.
The North said Thursday's announcement was in response to South Korea moving personnel, tanks, artillery and other heavy arms into the demilitarized zone in violation of the armistice.
South Korea denied that and called the North's move ``an almost complete abrogation of the armistice, and different from its previous moves to discredit it.''
Map: Panmunjom, North Korea