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Roh wants DMZ guard posts withdrawn

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Sept 27,2007
During the Oct. 2 to 4 inter-Korean summit, President Roh Moo-hyun will propose the complete withdrawal of armed forces from inside the demilitarized zone that has separated the two Koreas for more than a half century, a high-ranking administration official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.
“President Roh will propose to Kim Jong-il, the North Korean National Defense Commission chairman, to completely pull out 100 South Korean GPs [guard posts] and 280 North Korean GPs from the DMZ,” the source said, referring to the military posts located inside the 4 kilometer-wide strip of land along the 243-kilometer long border. “Removing the GPs means the withdrawal of soldiers and arms located inside the zone.”
The 1953 Korean War armistice established the demilitarized zone, and only light infantry is supposed to patrol inside the DMZ. Building guard posts and deploying heavy weaponry is in violation of the truce, but the North Korean military constructed guard posts inside the zone a few years after the war and brought in heavy weapons, including machine guns. The South countered by doing the same.
“Roh’s proposal is to demilitarize the area in line with its original purpose and to seek a joint plan to make peaceful use out of it,” the source said. “The South had stipulated the peaceful use of the DMZ in the 1991 basic agreement between the two Koreas for that specific reason.”
The source said the first step would be the withdrawal of military facilities, soldiers and weapons from the DMZ step by step. Next would be building an ecological park inside the DMZ, he said.
If Kim accepts Roh’s proposal, a detailed program is expected to be discussed at military talks between the two Koreas. South Korea’s Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo is accompanying Roh to Pyongyang for this reason, sources informed about the summit agenda said.
The United Nations Command has jurisdiction over the southern part of the DMZ, and sources inside the command said it generally supports the removal of guard posts and heavy weaponry from the area in order to respect the truce agreement.
Roh’s proposal is not new. At general-level military talks in August 2005, Seoul proposed removing the guard posts, but Pyongyang rejected the plan.
The feasibility of the plan is unclear. The DMZ is the most heavily armed border in the world and guard posts are at the forefront. The North may try to bargain on other sensitive issues, such as its challenge to the Northern Limit Line, the maritime border in the Yellow Sea, in return for DMZ progress.
“To make this work, other tension reduction measures will be needed, like redeployment of the North’s conventional weapons such as long-range guns and rocket launchers by pulling them back from areas near the DMZ,” the senior government source said.


By Lee Chul-hee JoongAng Ilbo / Ser Myo-ja Staff Writer



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