North and South Korea begin removing landmines along border

North and South Korea begin removing landmines along border

Critics have anxious that Moon's recent inter-Korean military deals would weaken South Korea's war readiness because the North's nuclear program remains largely intact.

More than 800,000 mines are believed to have been planted along the entire border during and after the 1950-53 war to defend against infiltration. Kim Jong Un has subsequently held a series of summits with U.S., South Korean and Chinese leaders and taken some steps such as dismantling his nuclear test site.

The JSA is the only spot along the 250-km (155-mile) -long "demilitarised zone" (DMZ) where troops from both Koreas are face to face.

South Korean Defense Ministry officials said they couldn't immediately confirm whether North Korea also began demining on the northern parts of the two sites. After the work is completed, guard posts and weapons will be removed and unarmed troops will remain stationed in the area, a statement by South Korea's defense ministry said on Monday.

The summit was the third this year between the leaders, following a rapid thaw in relations. Seoul officials believe the remains of about 300 South Korean and United Nations forces are in the Arrow Head Hill and likely many Chinese and North Korean remains too. It's not known how many mines are at Panmunjom and Arrow Head Hill, but military commentator Lee Illwoo said the Koreas would be able to clear tens of thousands at most.

Seoul says South Korea has begun clearing mines from two sites inside the heavily fortified border with North Korea under a package of tension-reduction deal between the rivals.

Since fighting during the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a stalemate, at least nine soldiers have been killed in incidents with North Korean troops, including the killing in 1976 of two USA soldiers by axe-wielding North Koreans, the UNC says. Many South Korean mines are also believed to have been dislodged due to flooding or landslides.

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.

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

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 two Koreas are set to conduct the joint excavation project in the Cheorwon area from April 1 to October 31, 2019.

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

Lee, the commentator, played down the significance of the mine removal, saying that "North Korea's military threats won't disappear even though we get rid of a small number of front-line mines". Most North Korean refugees living in the South have fled via the less guarded border with China.

The south's defense ministry confirmed Monday that military forces will remove all landmines in the so-called Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Peace Village.

However, he said American forces would provide support for the demining operation.

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