Koreas to discuss recovering remains of fallen soldiers, removing land mines in DMZ

Read: 453     12:40     15 June 2018    

The two Koreas will discuss recovering the remains of fallen soldiers and eliminating land mines in the Demilitarized Zone during another round of military talks expected to take place as early as late this month, a government source said Friday.

They will also run a communication line among their naval ships in the Yellow Sea and fully restore western and eastern military communication channels, according to the agreement reached during Thursday's general-grade meeting, the first in more than a decade, the source said.

Such moves came as the two sides are striving to implement the April 27 inter-Korean summit agreement that calls for joint efforts to alleviate military tensions and "practically eliminate the danger of war."

   The agreement to restore the military communication lines is seen as an initial confidence-building measure.

The two sides opened the western communication line in 2002 and the eastern line the following year to support the border crossings mostly by South Koreans on business and other missions, and prevent accidental military clashes.

The eastern line was blocked in 2011 amid inter-Korean tensions and then completely severed due to a wildfire in 2013. The western line was suspended in 2016 following Seoul's shutdown of the inter-Korean industrial complex in the border city of Kaesong but partially restored in January.

"In the follow-up military talks, (we) plan to focus on the issue of replacing the old communication line in the North and establishing a new one," an official at Seoul's defense ministry said on condition of anonymity.

"The construction work, such as installing optical cables and other equipment, would take two to three months," he added.

The official also noted that ahead of the construction work, his ministry asked the foreign ministry to check if installing such communication equipment would run afoul of international sanctions against the North.

"Should it be seen as infrastructure construction, it could be seen as an exception (from the sanctions)," he said.

In the follow-up talks, the two sides will also discuss details of how to restore a communication line between their naval patrol ships near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto sea border long seen as a flashpoint.

During the general-level talks in June 2004, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to use the international communication line for merchant ships as a channel between their naval vessels to help avoid any unnecessary clashes near the NLL. But the line was suspended in May 2008 as the North refused to respond to South Korean calls.

The South Korean side is expected to propose holding following-up military talks late this month or next month.



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