Two Koreas hold general-grade military talks to discuss detente

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-10-26 17:08 Updated : 2018-10-26 17:08
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense]

SEOUL -- The two Koreas agreed to tear down 11 front-line guard posts on each side by the end of November in a pilot project to end hostilitiess along the world's last Cold War frontier.

At general-grade talks Friday in the truce village of Panmunjom, the two sides also agreed to push for the early establishment of a joint military committee tasked with enforcing their military agreement signed in September at an inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang.

Originally, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) was set up after the 1950-53 Korean War to be clear of heavy weapons with border guards allowed to use only personal sidearms for patrolling to prevent any unnecessary clashes. However, North Korea has deployed mortars and large-caliber machine guns at 160 guard posts while South Korea has built concrete guardposts in 60 places.

Friday's meeting involving South Korean Major General Kim Do-gyun and his North Korean counterpart, An Ik-san, came a day after the two sides disarmed Pammunjom, which used to be guarded by some 80 armed soldiers from each side with heavy weapons and armored vehicles stationed in nearby areas. 
Under new rules, just 35 unarmed soldiers from each side will stand guard to control civilian visitors and tourists who would be allowed to make a guided walk inside.
Panmunjom encompasses an 800-meter wide enclave, roughly circular in shape and created as a jointly guarded neutral area. For three weeks, the two sides have removed mines, guard posts and firearms to turn the truce village into an unarmed area.

The DMZ is a four-kilometer-wide strip of land that has divided the Korean peninsula since an armistice accord ended the conflict.  It has been heavily fortified with minefields, guard posts, concrete walls and electric fences. A pilot project to excavae the remains of soldiers killed during the war and buried in the DMZ will begin in April 2019.

To remove the risk of war on the Korean peninsula, the two Koreas agreed to stop all artillery drills and field maneuvers by setting up maritime, air and ground buffer zones in front-line areas. A joint military commission will discuss the creation of front-line buffer zones.

On November 1, the two Koreas would stop hostile activities along the border. North Korea would close the gates for artificial concrete bunkers and caves housing hundreds of cannons deployed in front-line coastal areas. The North's long and short-distance artillery would also stop firing into the inter-Korean buffer zone.

In November 2010, the North's artillery shelled South Korea's front-line Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans and briefly triggering concerns of a full-scale conflict.

The two Koreas recognize different boundaries dividing their territorial waters in the Yellow Sea. Because the Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war. The maritime border has been the scene of sporadic naval clashes.