North, South Korea begin removing landmines along fortified border
02 October, 2018, 20:46 | Author: Ted Wilson
The North's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho also told the United Nations last month that there was "no way" his country would disarm first as long as the USA pushes for tough enforcement of sanctions against Pyongyang.
A top South Korean official told lawmakers that North Korea is estimated to have up to 60 nuclear weapons, in Seoul's first public comment about the size of the North's secrecy-clouded weapons arsenal.
Both sides undertook to carry out landmine removal work at the Joint Security Area (JSA) over a 20-day period, according to the South Korean defense ministry. The Koreas remain split along the 248-kilometer (155-mile)-long Demilitarized Zone that was originally created as a buffer zone at the end of the Korean War.
Cho's ministry said Tuesday that his comments didn't mean that South Korea would accept North Korea as a nuclear state, adding that diplomatic efforts to rid the North of its nuclear program would continue.
On Monday, South Korean army engineers with demining equipment were deployed to the border village of Panmunjom and another frontline area called "Arrow Head Hill" where the Koreas plan their first joint searches for soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
In November 2017, North Korean troops at the JSA shot one of their soldiers defecting to the South five times.
The ceasefire that halted the bloody conflict that sealed the division of the Korean peninsula was signed by the North, its military ally China and the United States - which fought on the side of the South. Aiming to reduce conventional military threats, they also agreed to remove 11 front-line guard posts by December and set up buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the border to prevent accidental clashes.
There was no immediate confirmation from North Korea that its troops had begun the demining process, but the South said it expects its neighbor to adhere to the deal.
Meanwhile, on Monday, South Korea held a ceremony marking the recent return of remains of 64 South Korean soldiers missing from the Korean War. He also said the north is committed to helping maintain "long lasting peace and prosperity" on the peninsula.
South and North Korea are reported to have started removing landmines from along their heavily defended border. Past rapprochement efforts were often stalled after an global standoff over the North's nuclear ambitions intensified.
The North's official news agency said its government, led by dictator Kim Jong Un, has taken significant measures to end hostile relations with its southern neighbour.
Apparently reflecting the improving ties, North Korea sent Choe Ryong-hae, its de facto No. 2 official, to a reception hosted by the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang last week to mark China's founding anniversary. The remains of a large number of Chinese and North Korean soldiers are also likely there.
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