Koreas to connect cross-border road this week for excavation of war remains

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-11-20 16:26 Updated : 2018-11-20 16:26
글씨작게 글씨크게

[ Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- A new cross-border road will open this week for a joint project to excavate war remains buried in a 1953 battlefield in the world's last Cold War frontier as the two Koreas completed their work to remove mines.

The South's defense ministry said Tuesday that a 12-meter wide unpaved military road would be connected on Thursday at the midpoint of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a four-kilometer-wide strip of land that has divided the Korean peninsula since an armistice accord ended the three-year conflict in 1953.

The six-month joint excavation of war remains in the northern border town of Cheorwon will begin in April next year in Hill 281 (Arrowhead), a site of intense battles in 1953 for dominant and strategic hilltop positions. Defense ministry data showed hundreds of soldiers from South Korea, the U.S. and France were buried in the hill. Chinese soldiers fought for North Korea.

The demining operation that followed an inter-Korean summit in September began on October 1. North Korea has removed thousands of landmines on its side while South Korea has removed hundreds of mines and unspecified explosives.

The DMZ has been heavily fortified with minefields, guard posts, concrete walls and electric fences. At a summit in Pyongyang in September, the two Korean agreed to disarm the border truce village of Panmunjom and tear down DMZ guard posts on a trial basis.

The White House wants the full excavation of some 5,300 American soldiers known to be killed and buried on the northern part of the Korean peninsula. From 1990 to 2006, Pyongyang returned hundreds of remains in return for financial compensation in a joint project with U.S. officials.

To remove the risk of war, the two Koreas stopped all hostile activities including artillery drills and field maneuvers on November 1 by setting up maritime, air and ground buffer zones in front-line areas. 

On Tuesday, North Korean military engineers were seen using explosives to destroy ten DMZ guard posts in a simultaneous operation, the defense ministry said. For verification, the two aides will inspect each side next month.