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Two Koreas to hold military talks on easing border tensions this week

A South Korea soldier stands guard in May at the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone, which divides the two Koreas.

AARON KIDD/STARS AND STRIPES

By KIM GAMEL AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 11, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea – North and South Korean military officers will discuss ways to ease border tensions Thursday in the truce village of Panmunjom, the defense ministry said.

The talks will occur four days before an inter-Korean summit is to begin in Pyongyang amid a new push for diplomatic momentum in the crisis over the North nuclear weapon’s program.

The military meeting will focus on proposals to excavate the remains of troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War from the heavily fortified frontier, the removal of guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone on a trial basis and how to disarm the jointly patrolled area in Panmunjom, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

The officers also are expected to discuss the military agenda for the three-day meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which is to begin on Sept. 18, more than four months after the two leaders first met.

South Korea’s three-member delegation to the military meeting, which will be held on the North Korean side, will be led by Col. Cho Yong Geun, the defense ministry said in a statement. A ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy, said details about the agenda haven’t been finalized.

The Demilitarized Zone – a 2.5 mile wide, more than 150 mile long no man’s land lined with barbed wire and dotted with landmines – has divided the peninsula since the war ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

The Joint Security Area, with several blue conference buildings straddling the Military Demarcation Line, is controlled by the U.S.-led United Nations Command.

It’s a popular tourist destination but also has been the site of past tensions, including the dramatic escape by a North Korean soldier who defected to the South last year by running across the border while under gunfire from his former comrades.

South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo said last month that the two sides had each agreed to remove several guard posts on a trial basis.

Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the UNC and U.S. Forces Korea, said he supports the initiative as a way to reduce tensions and build trust between the rival nations, despite the risks.

“I have some concerns about what that means militarily to the ability to defend along the Military Demarcation Line and in depth beyond it,” he told reporters in Seoul. “I believe that there’s a reasonable amount of risk that’s involved in this, not an excessive amount of risk,” to the defense of South Korea.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

chang.kyong@stripes.com

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