South, North Korea Begin Removing Landmines from Border

Saul Bowman
October 2, 2018

In another attempt to "devise substantive military measures to transform the Demilitarized Zone into a peace zone", the two Koreas will withdraw 11 guard posts located within one km of each other in the DMZ by the end of the year.

More than a million landmines were laid in border areas including the DMZ and the Civilian Control Zone in the South, say demining experts, and civilians and soldiers alike have been killed or injured by them. Many South Korean mines are also believed to have been dislodged due to flooding or landslides.

The other area being demined is around the so-called "Arrow Head Hill", where some of the war's heaviest fighting took place over a strategically important hilltop position.

Propaganda loudspeakers and some guard posts along the border have already been dismantled.

By Kim Yoo-chulPresident Moon Jae-in said Monday the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) will continue doing their job as a "peacekeeper" on the Korean Peninsula and perform as a balancer to maintain stability in the Northeast Asian region.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a luncheon, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 21, 2018.

Meanwhile, on Monday, South Korea held a ceremony marking the recent return of the remains of 64 South Korean soldiers missing from the Korean War.

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. In 2015, a landmine blast blamed on North Korea maimed two South Korean soldiers and pushed the Koreas to the brink of war.

"It's the start of peace", said Kim Ki-ho, head of the private Korea Mine Clearance Research Institute, according to CBS News.

In the South, troops began removing mines on the southern part of the two sites on Monday morning.

The KCNA said North Korea has taken "substantial and crucial steps" to implement the summit agreement with the U.S. but that Washington is still talking about intensifying sanctions, rather than trying to resolve the end-of-war declaration issue that should have been resolved decades ago.

South Korean troops have gradually taken over most operations along their side of the border but global forces, under the U.S. led United Nations Command, retain major roles.

Moon defended the agreements in remarks Monday on South Korea's 70th Armed Forces Day.

At Arrow Head Hill, where some of the fiercest battles occurred during the Korean War, Seoul officials believe there are remains of about 300 South Korea and United Nations forces, along with an unspecified number of Chinese and North Korean remains. Critics of his engagement policy have lambasted the recent inter-Korean military deals, saying a mutual reduction of conventional military strength would weaken South Korea's war readiness because the North's nuclear program remains largely intact. Past rapprochement efforts were often stalled after an global standoff over the North's nuclear ambitions intensified.

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