2 Koreas, UN forces to remove arms from part of DMZ

SEOUL • The two Koreas and the US-led United Nations Command agreed yesterday to demilitarise a section of the heavily fortified border dividing the peninsula by this week, as a diplomatic thaw gathers pace.

"The three parties agreed to carry out measures to withdraw firearms and guard posts at the Joint Security Area (JSA) by Oct 25," Seoul's Defence Ministry said in a statement following trilateral talks.

They will then conduct a "three-way joint verification" for the following two days, it added.

The JSA, also known as the truce village of Panmunjom, is the only spot along the tense, 250km frontier where troops from the two countries stand face to face.

It was a designated neutral zone until the "axe murder incident" in 1976, when North Korean soldiers attacked a work party trying to chop down a tree inside the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), leaving two US army officers dead.

South and North Korea - which are technically still at war - agreed to take measures to ease military tensions on their border at a meeting in Pyongyang last month between President Moon Jae-in and the North's leader Kim Jong Un.

Earlier this month, the two sides began removing landmines at the JSA - which is now often used for talks between the two Koreas - as part of the deal. They confirmed yesterday that the demining operation has been completed.

The September summit was the third this year between the leaders as a remarkable rapprochement takes hold on the peninsula.

The JSA, also known as the truce village of Panmunjom, is the only spot along the tense, 250km frontier where troops from the two countries stand face to face.

Mr Moon has advocated engagement with the isolated North to nudge it towards denuclearisation.

Yesterday's talks were the second meeting of a trilateral JSA commission made up of the two Koreas and the UN Command, which is included as it retains jurisdiction over the southern half of the JSA.

Its chief, US General Vincent Brooks, told reporters in August that as commander of the combined US-South Korean forces - one of his other roles - he felt that there was a "reasonable degree of risk" in Seoul's plans to dismantle guard posts near the DMZ.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline '2 Koreas, UN forces to remove arms from part of DMZ'. Print Edition | Subscribe