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Two Koreas begin removing landmines inside DMZ

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Joint Security Area (JSA) looking into North Korea. (Travis Wise/Flickr)

According to the South Korean military, the removal operations took place at two sites inside the Demilitarized Zone: the Joint Security Area at the border village of Panmunjom and Arrow Head Hill in mountainous Gangwon Province.

While the North Korean army has not revealed exactly when and where the removal operation would occur, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said similar steps would be seen inside the North’s territory.

“In accordance with the military agreement (made during the Pyongyang summit), the removal operation is expected to take place in each other’s territories inside the JSA,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The South Korean military will send engineering units to the south-controlled territory at the JSA. The units will also remove landmines scattered near the jointly controlled area, such as observatories and small forests, the ministry said.

The ministry said clearing landmines inside JSA will last for 20 days before the withdrawal of troops, weapons and guard posts in the area over the next five days.

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Regarding Arrow Head Hill, the ministry aims to remove the mines by the end of November. After building a cross-border road and forming a joint excavation team, the two Koreas are to launch a seven-month effort to locate remains in April.

“In parallel with the removal operation, we are going to proceed with the construction project of connecting roads between the two Koreas and aim to finish it by the end of this year,” the Defense Ministry said.

While the removal of landmines is hailed as the “first step” to carrying out the military aspects of agreements made at the Pyongyang summit, completely removing the mines would require tremendous time and efforts, analysts said.

Experts believe the South Korean and US militaries had planted about 1 to 1.2 million landmines south of the DMZ, while North Korea put about 800,000 to 1 million mines on its side.

The South Korean Army estimated that it would take about 200 years to completely remove landmines buried in the DMZ, whose size is equivalent to Yeouido, a 8.4-square-kilometers island near downtown Seoul.

“Even if we deploy 11 front-line engineering units to the DMZ and nearby area, it would take about 200 years to completely remove landmines scattered in the two Koreas,” an Army official said during a meeting with reporters last month.

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© 2018 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany)

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