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Monday, October 22, 2018, 22:55
Two Koreas, UN forces agree to remove weapons at border
By Reuters
Monday, October 22, 2018, 22:55 By Reuters

In this Oct 16, 2018 file photo provided by the Defense Ministry of the Republic of Korea (ROK), the US-led United Nations Command, center, military officers from the ROK and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), left, attend a meeting at the southern side of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, ROK. The two Koreas and the UN Command are meeting again at the Koreas' border village on Oct 22, 2018 to examine an ongoing effort to disarm the area. (ROK DEFENSE MINISTRY VIA AP, FILE)

SEOUL - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the UN Command agreed on Monday to withdraw firearms and guard posts in the demilitarized zone village of Panmunjom this week, Seoul's Defense Ministry said, the latest move in a fast-improving relationship. 

The three sides held their second round of talks at Panmunjom to discuss ways to demilitarize the border in line with a recent inter-Korean pact reached at last month's summit in Pyongyang

At Monday's meeting, the three sides agreed to remove firearms and guard posts from the JSA by Thursday, and carry out a joint inspection over the following two days, Seoul's Defense Ministry said

The US-led UN Command, which has overseen affairs in the DMZ since the end of hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War, was not immediately available for comment, but it said on Friday it supports the two Koreas' efforts to implement their military deal. 

READ MORE: Koreas, UN Command discuss disarming border area

The announcement comes amid US concerns that the inter-Korean military initiative could undermine defence readiness and comes without substantial progress on DPRK's promised denuclearization. 

The neighbours are looking to withdraw 11 guard posts within a 1-km radius of the Military Demarcation Line on their border by the end of the year. 

They also plan to pull out all firearms from a Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom and cut to 35 each the numbers of personnel stationed there and share information on surveillance equipment. 

At Monday's meeting, the three sides agreed to remove firearms and guard posts from the JSA by Thursday, and carry out a joint inspection over the following two days, the ministry said. 

The two Koreas have been removing landmines around the area as part of the agreement and they confirmed the completion of the demining operation at the talks with the UN Command. 

"We discussed the timeline of the pullout of firearms and guard posts, as well as ways to adjust the number of guard personnel and conduct joint inspections," the ministry said in a statement. 

The agreement also includes a halt in "all hostile acts" and a no-fly zone around the border. 

Two Koreas agree to jointly combat forest disease, pest

ROK and DPRK also agreed to jointly combat forest diseases and pests, including pine tree pests, every year through future consultations, according to a joint statement adopted after the talks.

According to the joint statement, the two sides will actively push to jointly tackle forest fires and protect ecosystems, while jointly holding seminars on forest-related science and technology.

ALSO READ: Koreas to break ground on inter-Korean railroad

DPRK and ROK are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, but relations have improved considerably in the last year. 

After his third summit in Pyongyang, ROK President Moon Jae-in said DPRK was ready to invite international experts to watch the dismantling of a key missile site and would close the main Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington took reciprocal actions. 

Those actions could include putting a formal end to the 1950-53 war, opening of a US liaison office in DPRK, humanitarian aid and an exchange of economic experts, Moon said. 

But Washington demands the DPRK takes irreversible steps to scrap its arsenal, such as a full disclosure of nuclear facilities and material.

With inputs from Xinhua

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