North, South Korea, UN agree to remove military structures, weapons from DMZ

In a move signaling a further reduction of tension and the building of trust on the deeply-divided Korean peninsula, representatives from North and South Korea and the U.N. have reached an agreement to dismantle military outposts and firearms from the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

Once a geopolitical flashpoint, the Panmunjom “peace village” has often been the site of taut negotiations, cross-border defections and bloody skirmishes.

Until Monday’s agreement, the area has been heavily fortified and access to it tightly controlled.

In a statement announcing the new step, the South Korean Defense Ministry issued a press release which read:

“The two Koreas and the UNC [U.S.-led United Nations Command] agreed to take measures of withdrawing firearms and military posts from the JSA by 25 October, and for the following two days, the three parties will conduct a joint verification.”

The talks conducted Monday were the second in a series held between the three parties, both of which were designed to review progress from two previous meetings held at the DMZ earlier in 2018.

The move to eliminate structures and weaponry from the heavily-fortified border follows an early October agreement between the Pyongyang and Seoul to remove landmines inside the DMZ.

In the same agreement, North and South Korean officials agreed to halt military exercises and install a no-fly zone over the DMZ.

Although the no-fly zone was warmly welcomed by North and South Korean diplomats, U.S. officials expressed concern over a halt to flights as it would limit surveillance capabilities.

Shortly after military engineers began clearing landmines at the DMZ, in another diplomatic breakthrough, officials of both nations agreed to reconnect both rail and road links between the two countries.

The plan to begin the reestablishment of rail and roadways will be celebrated later this year.  Rail and road lines had remained severed since the June 1950 North Korean invasion of the South.

Another step in a thaw gathering pace on the peninsula, the consensus to draw down at the DMZ comes after September talks in Pyongyang between leaders of both nations and the June summit in Singapore between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jung-un and President Trump.

 

[PressTV] [Nikkei Asian Review] [AP via South China Morning Post] [Photo courtesy AFP via Straits Times]

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