SEUL, South Korea – The North Korean and Korean armed forces have completed the withdrawal of troops and firearms from 22 guard posts on the front lines while continuing to implement a broad agreement reached in September to reduce tensions across the most fortified border of the world, south. Official of the Korean Ministry of Defense said.
South Korea says that the military agreement is an important step to building confidence that would help stabilize peace and anticipate reconciliation between rivals. But critics say the South is likely to suffer some of its conventional military forces before North Korea makes significant steps towards denuclearization – an anxiety that is growing as the largest nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang seem apparently in a stalemate.
Reportedly, South Korea has about 60 guard posts – bunker-like concrete structures surrounded by layers of barbed wire fences guarded by soldiers equipped with machine guns and mortars – that extend through the demilitarized zone called ironically.
The 248-kilometer (155-mile) border buffer punctuated by millions of anti-personnel mines was the scene of occasional skirmishes between the two forces from the 1950-53 Korean War. It is believed that the North has around 160 guard posts within the DMZ.
In September's military agreement, reached on the sidelines of a summit in Pyongyang between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea's president Moon Jae-in, the Koreans pledged to withdraw all guard inside the DMZ, but to start by removing 11 from each side as a "preliminary" measure.
The official of the South Korean Ministry of Defense said that the soldiers on Saturday completed the disarming of 11 guard posts on the south side of the DMZ. He said the ministry believes the North has also finished collecting personnel and weapons from 11 guard posts on the north side of the DMZ. He did not want to be named, citing the rules of the office.
Korea plans to destroy 20 of the structures by the end of November, while symbolically it leaves a demilitarized guard post on each side. They plan to jointly verify the results in December.
The Koreas in the September agreement also agreed to create buffer zones along their land and sea borders and a no-fly zone over the border, which came into force on 1 November.
Korea and the U.N. led by the United States have recently terminated the removal of firearms and troops from a jointly controlled area in the border village of Panmunjom and eventually plan to allow tourists to move freely. The Koreas have also freed land mines from the front lines and are planning to begin their first joint search in April for the remains of soldiers killed during the Korean War.
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