Thursday, 21 February, 2019


North Korea says war's end can't be bargaining chip for denuclearisation: KCNA

South Korean army soldiers stand guard at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone South Korea South Korean army soldiers stand guard at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone South Korea
Bennie Garza | 02 October, 2018, 14:14

Troops from North and South Korea have started removing some of the more than 800,000 landmines buried along their border, officials say.

It is often used as a venue for talks between the two Koreas, including the two summits between Kim and Moon this summer. They will likely end up pulling out a very small portion of an estimated 2 million mines littered inside and near the 155-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a luncheon, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 21, 2018.

The South Korean assessment on the North's arsenal is not much different from various outside civilian estimates largely based on the amount of nuclear materials that North is believed to have produced.

The Korean War left millions dead or missing, and South Korea wants to expand joint excavations with North Korea for remains at Demilitarized Zone areas.

The militaries launched the removal work in the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the DMZ, which they have agreed to disarm, and part of Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, where they plan to carry out a joint project to excavate Korean War remains next year.

The agreement to clear mines, the first such effort since the early 2000s, was among a package of tension-easing deals struck by the Koreas' defense chiefs on the sidelines of a leaders' summit last month in Pyongyang.

South Korean troops have gradually taken over most operations along the DMZ, but worldwide forces under the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) retain major roles, especially at the JSA, where an American commander and a South Korean deputy lead the security battalion.

At Arrow Head Hill, where some of the fiercest battles occurred during the Korean War, Seoul officials believe there are remains of about 300 South Korea and United Nations forces, along with an unspecified number of Chinese and North Korean remains.

In November 2017, North Korean troops at the JSA shot one of their soldiers defecting to the South five times.

Mines dislodged by flooding and landslides have occasionally caused deaths in front-line areas in South Korea.

Aiming to reduce conventional military threats, the Koreas' defense chiefs also agreed to withdraw 11 frontline guard posts by December and set up buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the borderline to prevent accidental armed clashes.

KCNA said that Pyongyang was willing to take "such. steps as eternal dismantlement" of its nuclear complex "if the United States takes a corresponding measure" but again did not elaborate. The area includes the border "village" of Panmunjom.

"It noted that it is the steadfast stand of Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) government to develop the traditional DPRK-China relations of friendship on a new stage", the KCNA said in English, referring to Kim's message to Xi.

The troops will try to remove mines on the southern parts of the two sites while North Korea is required to do the same on their northern sides. North Korea's state media didn't immediately confirm its reported demining.

Pungsans are designated a North Korean "natural monument".

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