Two Koreas withdraw from 22 DMZ guard posts

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Two Koreas withdraw from 22 DMZ guard posts

South and North Korea both withdrew troops and weapons from a total of 22 guard posts in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Saturday, fulfilling an inter-Korean military agreement reached last month.

With this first step completed, the militaries of the two Koreas will now discuss ways to decommission all DMZ guard posts, believed to total more than 200.

South Korea completed its withdrawal from 11 sites by Saturday, and the North also appears to have withdrawn from 11 sites on its side, according to a spokesman of the South’s Ministry of National Defense on Sunday.

The two sides will now each dismantle 10 emptied guard post buildings by the end of the month, as per an agreement reached on Oct. 26. At the meeting, high-level military officials from the two Koreas decided to remove 11 prominent guard posts each as an initial step to turn the DMZ into a zone of peace.

It was later determined that the two sides would both leave a single guard post each as a tourist sites, according to a statement by the South’s defense ministry last Thursday. The South’s remaining guard post is located on the country’s east coast, while the North’s remaining guard post sits in the foothills of Mount Kumgang. These will have weapons removed, but the buildings will remain as they are.

The 10 to be removed on each side will be dismantled with excavators rather than with explosives due to environmental and safety concerns.

The general-level talks that led to the dismantling were a follow-up to the summits this year between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. At the general-level talks, held last month, the two sides also agreed to check on the progress of the guard-post withdrawal in December as a final step in the process.

In the discussions, the two sides reaffirmed a mutual willingness to turn the 240-kilometer (149-mile) DMZ between the two countries into a peace zone, one of the primary tenets of the Panmunjom Declaration signed at the first summit between Moon and Kim in April.

When the two leaders met for a third time in Pyongyang last month, they signed a military accord to “expand the cessation of military hostilities in regions of confrontation such as the DMZ” for “fundamental resolution of hostile relations.”

The South has around 60 guard posts on its side of the DMZ, while the North is believed to have around 160.

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