South Korea warns North Korea against 'reckless provocation'

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea warned North Korea on Monday against further "reckless" provocations following a series of minor border skirmishes that have heightened military tensions ahead of planned high-level talks.

"We sternly warn North Korea against reckless military provocations ... that would raise military tensions," Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said.

Troops from both sides exchanged small arms fire on Sunday after South Korean troops fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol moving towards the military demarcation line that divides the peninsula.

On Oct 7, North and South Korean naval vessels traded warning fire near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Three days later, border guards exchanged heavy machine-gun fire after the North tried to shoot down balloons launched over the frontier with bundles of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

The North has repeatedly urged the South to ban the leaflet launches organised by activist groups, but Seoul insists it has no legal grounds for doing so.

Last week the two Koreas held military talks to address the tensions but they ended without agreement.

The border incidents have jeopardised a decision - reached during a surprise visit to the South by a top-ranking North delegation earlier this month - to resume high-level talks suspended since February.

The South has proposed Oct 30 as a date for restarting the dialogue, and Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol told reporters on Friday he still believes the talks will go ahead.

"Our government expects the high-level contact to be held as we suggested," Mr Lim said.

Because the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.