Two Koreas begin removing landmines inside DMZ

Hugh Fox
October 2, 2018

The apparent disclosure of the weaponry comes as North Korea warned on Tuesday that it can not use an end-of-war declaration as a "bargaining chip" in denuclearization talks with the US, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held their historic summit in Singapore in June in which they agreed to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Experts say more than a million landmines have been laid in border areas.

South and North Korea are reported to have started removing landmines from along their heavily defended border.

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The troops in the JSA used to be allowed to freely move across the military demarcation line (MDL) before the 1976 "axe murder incident" in which North Korean soldiers killed two USA soldiers who were trimming a tree in the DMZ.

Seoul's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told parliament the estimates on the size of North Korea's nuclear arsenal range from 20 bombs to as many as 60.

North Korea is estimated to have up to 60 nuclear weapons, a South Korean official said on Tuesday, the first public announcement about the hermit kingdom's secret arsenal.

In the meantime, the two Koreas and the UN Command will discuss ways to disarm the zone such as by pulling out troops, weapons and guard posts.

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In November 2017, North Korean troops at the JSA shot one of their soldiers defecting to the South five times.

South Korean troops have gradually taken over most operations along the DMZ, but global forces under the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) retain major roles, especially at the JSA, where an American commander and a South Korean deputy lead the security battalion.

Military officials have predicted that once the disarming measure is implemented, the JSA will look similar to what it had been like before the 1976 axe murder incident, when rank-and-file guard posts were banned from carrying heavy firearms - even pistols.

The troops will try to remove mines on the southern parts of the two sites while North Korea is required to do the same on their northern sides.

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North Korea on Tuesday ruled out dismantling its nuclear arsenal in exchange for the USA declaring an end to the Korean War, saying a peace treaty should "never be a bargaining chip". "It is also the most basic and primary process for the establishment of new DPRK-US relations and peace mechanism on the Korean peninsula, to which the US was also committed", the KCNA added. But it said the "trying to subdue" it through sanctions - a clear call for Washington to lift sanctions if it wants further progress in their stalled nuclear negotiations. It is believed that South Korean, United States, French and Chinese soldiers are buried there.

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