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United Nations Command to review inter-Korean military agreement

A vehicle carrying South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes its way through Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018.

COURTESY OF PYEONGYANG PRESS CORPS

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 21, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S.-led United Nations Command will “thoroughly review” an inter-Korean military accord, an official said, after the two nations agreed to a series of sweeping measures aimed at easing tensions along the heavily fortified border that divides the peninsula.

The agreement — signed after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a three-day summit this week in Pyongyang — prompted concern that it could harm security as the two leaders move forward with efforts to forge peace despite slow progress in persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.

It also raised questions about how the measures may affect the 1953 armistice agreement that ended three years of fighting after the warring parties, which included the United States and China, failed to reach a peace treaty.

The U.N. Command — which is led by Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, who also commands U.S. Forces Korea — oversees the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom and is responsible for enforcing the armistice. The command planned to hold working-level meetings to examine each part of the agreement, a UNC official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“UNC will thoroughly review the details of the comprehensive agreement to ensure compliance with the Armistice Agreement and its implementation under current circumstances considering the spirits of the Inter-Korean and Singapore Summits,” the official said in an email, referring also to the unprecedented meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump on June 12.

The official said the command would work closely with South Korea’s defense ministry and “as appropriate” with the North Korean military “to work through the details of the agreement.”

During the summit, Kim, a 30-something leader whose family has ruled North Korea since its foundation in 1948, reiterated his commitment to denuclearization and offered to dismantle his country’s main long-range missile site and launch pad. He also agreed to close the main nuclear complex at Yongbyon if the United States takes “corresponding measures.”

He and Moon also agreed to halt all hostile acts in a separate military agreement that included the establishment of a no-fly zone and buffer zones on sea and land borders in which their troops would not conduct artillery exercises or military flights. They also agreed to disarm troops at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom and to withdraw guard posts on a trial basis.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo briefed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the summit’s outcome during a phone call Friday, according to the Yonhap News Agency. The ministry said Mattis reaffirmed Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to the longtime alliance between the two nations.

The military agreement was the latest step in efforts to ease tensions that had led to fears of a nuclear war last year as the North showed strong progress in the development of a nuclear weapon that could target the U.S. mainland.

Trump and Kim agreed to try to achieve the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” during their Singapore summit but talks stalled over how to achieve that goal. Trump also suspended joint war games with South Korea after that summit.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

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