Two Koreas remove landmines at tense border

More than 1 million landmines were laid in border areas including the DMZ and the Civilian Control Zone in the South

Rex_Wholster via Getty Images More than 1 million landmines were laid in border areas including the DMZ and the Civilian Control Zone in the South

North and South Korean troops began removing land mines along the nations' heavily fortified border on Monday - as part of a pact meant to ease tensions and build trust, the South's Defense Ministry said.

But it would be the two countries' first joint demining work in more than a decade and comes amid global diplomacy aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

In the "Arrow Head Hill", where some of the fiercest battles during the Korean War happened, Seoul officials believe there are remains of about 300 South Korean and United Nations forces along with an unspecified number of Chinese and North Korean remains.

The South's Defense Ministry says it detected North Korean soldiers engaging in what it believes are demining-related work at the two sites.

The official refused to provide more details.

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

Seoul officials think the remains of about 300 South Korean and United Nations forces and an unspecified number of North Korean and Chinese remains are in "Arrow Head Hill" - where some of the fiercest battles of the war took place.

All landmines in the JSA, which is the only portion of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) where forces stand face-to-face, are expected to be removed by military personnel within the next 20 days, South Korea's defence ministry said in a statement on Monday. About two million mines are believed to be scattered in and near the DMZ, which is also guarded by hundreds of thousands of combat troops, barbed wire fences and tank traps. Panmunjom is one of the most famous sites in the Demilitarized Zone and is where the armistice was signed in 1953 to end the Korean War.

As part of last month's deal, guard posts and weapons will be shipped out of the JSA after the demining.

Aiming to reduce conventional military threats, the Koreas' defense chiefs also agreed to withdraw 11 frontline guard posts by December and set up buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the borderline to prevent accidental armed clashes.

South Korea would find itself more vulnerable to North Korean infiltration and assault via land routes, while North Korea would worry about front-line soldiers and residents escaping to the South more easily, Lee said.

North Korea, South Korea and the US have not signed the 1997 global treaty banning landmines.

Pungsans are designated a North Korean "natural monument".

"The Russian side demanded the (South Korean) maritime authorities' ban on the vessel leaving the port be immediately cancelled", it said in a statement.

Experts say more than a million landmines have been laid in border areas. Past rapprochement efforts were often stalled after a standoff over the North's nuclear ambitions intensified. They expressed support for the project during talks last month in Pyongyang, the North's capital. 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.

Nuclear diplomacy later came to a standstill amid disputes over how genuine North Korea is about its disarmament pledge. But Trump, Pompeo and other USA officials have recently reported progress in denuclearization discussions with the North. Pompeo is to make his third trip to North Korea soon. It is believed that South Korean, United States, French and Chinese soldiers are buried there.

Consider the speeches the South Korean president delivered in North Korea last month.

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