N. Korean soldier who defected used a vehicle to escape

North Korea drills and US aircraft carriers

North Korea's Ambassador Ja Song Nam said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that this was "the worst ever situation prevailing in and around the Korean peninsula".

The soldier shot and injured by the North Korean side while defecting from a military post in front of Panmungak, the main building managed by North Korea in the Joint Security Area, the JCS said in a statement.

A doctor treating the soldier - who was airlifted to a hospital for emergency surgery - said he had been shot half-a-dozen times and sustained a serious stomach injury.

The South Korean ministry official said the soldier's condition and military rank remained to be verified.

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

"There will need to be some questioning on why he defected after his treatment is over", ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a regular briefing.

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

A senior Chinese diplomat will visit North Korea from Friday as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing said, although it did not say he was planning to discuss North Korea's nuclear and ballistic programs.

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

These were the first gunshots fired at the truce village of Panmunjom in 33 years and the first defection of a North Korean soldier since 2007.

The 58-year-old American, identified as only as "A" and reportedly from the USA 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. It is located inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which forms the de facto border between the Koreas since the Korean War.

The United Nations Command, which is run by the United States military and oversees the Joint Security Area, said that it was investigating the incident.

From there they can seek sanctuary and organise a flight to South Korea, where defectors are given assistance and prepared for life outside the hermit state.

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.

The defection came during escalated tensions between the North and the South and almost a week after President Trump visited Seoul for his five-country Asia tour.

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