The South Korean military intends to begin disarming and withdrawing troops from the demilitarized zone as a confidence-building measure amid the detente with North Korea.
The Ministry of Defense said Tuesday it plans to withdraw troops and equipment from guard posts at the DMZ as part of broader efforts to effectively implement the Panmunjom Declaration, the agreement signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the landmark inter-Korean summit in April, KBS World Radio revealed.
“The two sides agreed to transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone,” the agreement read, with both Koreas agreeing to cease “all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets, in the areas along the Military Demarcation Line.”
North and South Korea tore down the loudspeakers, weapons of psychological warfare used to blast propaganda over the border, at the start of May, just days after the conclusion of the April leadership summit, the first of two so far in 2018.
South Korea has also taken steps to prevent activists from dropping counter-propaganda leaflets in North Korean territory, actions that have long infuriated Pyongyang.
While border troops tend to carry small arms, guard posts at the DMZ reportedly house heavy weaponry, such as machine guns.
The South Korean defense ministry said Tuesday that current withdrawal plans would be on a trial basis, adding that it will consider a full-scale withdrawal as both sides work to realize the goals identified in the Panmunjom Declaration, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The ministry is also considering reducing the number of guards on duty at the Joint Security Area, as well as allowing people to move freely between the two sides in that area. Withdrawals and disarmament are reportedly expected to be carried out in a phased manner.
Speaking before the National Assembly’s defense committee, a defense ministry spokesman also explained the South Korean military hopes to cooperate with Washington and Pyongyang to excavate the remains of soldiers buried at the DMZ.
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