Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The South Korean military was ready to deploy heavy artillery fire at the border with North Korea, if North Korean guards targeting an escaping soldier had misfired and bullets made it past the military demarcation line.
A South Korean military source who spoke to local newspaper Segye Ilbo said the K9 Thunder, a South Korean self-propelled 155 mm howitzer and the Chunmoo, a multiple-launch rocket system, were on emergency standby at the time of the shooting.
"If the shooting was aimed at the [South Korean] army, or North Korean forces assigned to artillery made a move, the K-9 Self-Defense Forces and the Chunmoo could have targeted North Korean soldiers," the source said, requesting anonymity.
South Korea was preparing a military coordination of artillery fire, or Time On Target, as the defector made his daring escape.
In TOT shooting scenarios, all munitions arrive at the target at exactly the same time.
The artillery is located in the Joint Security Area, which is administered by the United Nations Command.
Heavy artillery fire could have been exchanged were it not for the decision of one North Korean soldier who accidentally crossed the military demarcation line to quickly return to the North, the military source said.
Tensions prevail on the peninsula following the defection, but Seoul's unification ministry is exploring options for talks with North Korea, Yonhap reported Thursday.
"North Korea has expressed its position to engage in dialogue with the United States following its completion of nuclear weapons development, and I wonder whether it will be a chance for talks," said Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyun.
President Moon has previously said he would pursue dialogue on two fronts with the North for reasons of stability.
"We cannot go on like this," Moon had said last week.