Koreas hash out military agenda before summit

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Koreas hash out military agenda before summit

Defense officials from both Koreas will meet at the border village of Panmunjom on Thursday to determine the military agenda for the upcoming summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said on Tuesday.

The meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. in the North Korean-controlled building of Tongilgak. The Defense Ministry said the North requested the meeting last Thursday ahead of Moon and Kim’s summit next week in Pyongyang.

The ministry said both sides will specifically discuss withdrawing arms from the Joint Security Area (JSA); removing guard posts inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ); excavating the remains of fallen soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War within the DMZ; and easing tension near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea.

Three military officials from each country are expected to attend. The South Korean delegation will be led by Army Col. Cho Yong-geun, who heads the ministry’s North Korea Policy Division. North Korea has yet to provide its list of participants, the Defense Ministry said, though Army Col. Om Chang-nam, who led a North Korean delegation during a previous meeting on June 25, has been named as a possible participant.

A South Korean military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the discussion on Thursday will likely revolve around subjects already discussed during a meeting between the two countries’ generals in late July. Both sides are also expected to discuss working-level matters of a comprehensive military agreement the two Koreas are planning to sign soon.

On demilitarizing the JSA, South Korea’s Defense Ministry is said to have reviewed reducing the number of guards that each country is allowed to dispatch to the area, erasing the military demarcation line separating the two countries, withdrawing all heavy weapons from the area and allowing the free movement of soldiers there.

To prepare for the joint excavation of remains of fallen soldiers from the Korean War within the DMZ, which both countries are currently discussing, the ministry said it planned to hire more personnel for the job, raising the number of team members from 88 to 136 by next year.

If North Korea does agree to conduct a joint excavation, Chorwon County in North Korea’s Kangwon Province, on the southeastern part of the country, has been cited as a possible site. It was the location of a major battle during the war.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, LEE KEUN-PYUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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