Escaped North Korean soldier fights for life after being shot crossing DMZ

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South Korean and US soldiers, fearing more North Korean fire, later crawled to him to rescue him, the United Nations Command said in a separate statement.

The soldier crossed to South Korea from the North Korean side of the heavily guarded Joint Security Area (JSA) to Freedom House in the South, according to the JCS.

A North Korean soldier who suffered critical gunshot wounds during a defection dash this week over the border with South Korea was being operated upon for a second time early on Wednesday, the hospital treating him said.

The Joint Security Area in Panmunjom is the only place in 155-mile-long and 2 ½ mile-wide Korean Demilitarized Zone where military-level meetings are held between the UN Command and North Korea.

Seoul has also placed its army in full combat readiness in order to tackle any form of provocation by the North.

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About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

Song would be the first ministerial-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since October 2015 when Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan visited Pyongyang and met with Kim.

There was no immediate comment on the incident from North Korea.

Meanwhile, three USA aircraft carriers are joining a combined exercise with the South Korean Navy in the East Sea in a show of force against North Korea.

Suh Wook, chief director of operations for the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that North Korea fired a total of about 40 rounds in a shooting that his office suggested started while the soldier was in the jeep. He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the South's Defense Ministry said.

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Panmunjomis where an armistice was signed to pause the Korean War.

The 58-year-old American, identified as only as "A" and reportedly from the U.S. state of Louisiana, was arrested by South Korean police at midnight on Monday (9.55am local time) after he crossed over the Civilian Control Line (CCL) near the North Korean border.

The announcement about the Chinese envoy's visit came after Trump during talks with Xi last week urged him to to do more to use China's influence to pressure North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to give up nuclear weapons programme.

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 Korea said the 12 women, and one man, had chosen to defect to the South.

Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years.

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