South plans to remove guard posts from DMZ

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South plans to remove guard posts from DMZ

South Korea’s National Defense Ministry relayed plans Tuesday to withdraw guard posts and their equipment from the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in another follow-up measure to the Panmunjom Declaration signed by the countries’ leaders in April.

In a briefing to the parliamentary National Defense Committee at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, the ministry said that it would carry out the project in several steps.

After taking a few guard posts out in an early stage, the ministry said it would try to combine a separate inter-Korean initiative of excavating historical assets and conducting an environmental study at the DMZ before eventually pulling out every single guard post from South Korea’s side of the buffer zone.

The DMZ is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide - 2 kilometers in each country - and stretches 248 kilometers from coast to coast.

In the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration and a joint statement signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump last month, the ministry said it would push for a trilateral project to excavate remains of soldiers who died in the 1950-53 Korean War from the DMZ.

Efforts to demilitarize the Joint Security Area (JSA) will also be implemented, said the ministry. The goal is to reduce military troops and their equipment stationed within the truce village, as well as restore free movement.

The JSA, also known as Panmunjom, used to be the only area within the DMZ where members of each side had the freedom of movement, until the most brutal event in the history of the JSA broke out on Aug. 18, 1976, infamously known as the axe murder incident.

United Nations troops were attacked by North Korean soldiers while trimming a poplar tree in the JSA. North Korean soldiers killed two American officers with axes. In response, the UN Command carried out Operation Paul Bunyan to cut down the tree in a massive show of force, deploying seven Cobra attack helicopters to fly overhead.

At their first summit on April 27, Moon and Kim agreed in the Panmunjom Declaration to make joint efforts to alleviate “acute military tension” on the Korean Peninsula, while completely ceasing all hostile acts against each other in “every domain, including land, air and sea.”

The two Koreas also agreed to “transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone” and devise ways to designate the areas around the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, the disputed inter-Korean maritime border, into a “maritime peace zone” that will prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee free safe fishing activities.

The Defense Ministry said Tuesday it would also carry out the maritime peace zone project in stages.

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