North and South Korean troops have began removing some of the landmines along their heavily guarded border on Monday, the South’s defence ministry said, in a pact to reduce tension and build trust on the divided peninsula.
The details of the project were agreed upon during last month’s summit in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
In a statement, the ministry said the two sides agreed to remove all landmines in the so-called Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom within the next 20 days, with military engineers performing the hazardous task on the South Korean side. The deal additionally has made provision for removal of guard posts and weapons from the JSA to follow the removal of the mines, with the troops remaining there to be left unarmed.
The JSA is the only spot along the 250-km (155-mile) -long “demilitarised zone” (DMZ) where troops from both Koreas are facing each other.
South Korean troops have, over a period of time taken over most operations along their side of the border. However, international forces under the U.S.-led United Nations Command still hold major roles, especially at the JSA, where an American commander and a South Korean deputy lead the security battalion.
UNC spokesman Colonel Chad Carroll declined to confirm if the command would also withdraw any weapons from the JSA, but said American forces would provide support for the demining operation.