Koreas, US-led UN Command discuss disarming border area

October 15, 2018 - 10:04 pm

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The rival Koreas and the U.S.-led United Nations Command were meeting Tuesday to discuss efforts to disarm a military zone the rivals control within their shared border under a peace agreement between the Koreas.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the talks at the Panmunjom border village mark the first meeting between the Koreas and the U.N. Command to discuss ways to demilitarize the village's Joint Security Area.

The Korean militaries in past weeks have been clearing mines from the area following a broad agreement meant to reduce military tensions that was forged between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in their summit last month.

The Koreas plan to withdraw guard posts and firearms from the Joint Security Area once the demining is complete.

Further details from Tuesday's meeting weren't immediately available.

The military agreement between the Koreas also calls for the creation of buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries, a no-fly zone above the border and the removal of 11 front-line guard posts by December.

Moon has said the military agreement is an important trust-building step that will reduce border tension and create diplomatic space without negatively impacting the South's defense readiness.

Some military experts say South Korea is at risk of conceding some of its conventional military strength before the North takes any material steps toward giving up its nuclear weapons program, the goal of global diplomatic efforts.

The Joint Security Area is overseen by the U.N. Command and by North Korea, with South Korean and North Korean border guards facing each other only meters (yards) apart. It is located inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which is a heavily-fortified zone that has formed the de facto border between the Koreas since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Joint Security Area has been used for diplomatic engagements but was also a site of occasional bloodshed during the Cold War, including the killing of two American army officers by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers in 1976. It was also where a defecting North Korean soldier fled south last year in a hail of bullets fired by his former comrades.

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