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Guns, guard posts pulled from JSA this week

Oct 23,2018
All firearms and guard posts in the Joint Security Area (JSA) will be withdrawn by Thursday, a trilateral meeting involving both Koreas and the U.S.-led United Nations Command (UNC) concluded Monday.

The three sides will spend Friday and Saturday “jointly verifying” the withdrawal, Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense announced in a press statement.

The agreement marks another follow-up measure to the military pact the two Koreas’ militaries signed last month in the third inter-Korean summit, through which the countries vowed to turn the JSA into a weapon-free zone.

The pact reads that the JSA should be demined by Oct. 20, and within the next five days, all firearms and guard posts must be removed.

An official at the Defense Ministry said the government was hopeful they could meet the next goal as well: to allow South and North Korean guards free movement within the JSA by Sunday.

If this succeeds, said the official, tourists might be allowed to cross the military demarcation line by the end of this year as well.

Monday’s trilateral meeting was the second time both Koreas and the UNC met in the truce village of Panmunjom to hammer out agreements made in the inter-Korean military pact.

The UNC has jurisdiction over the JSA, making its approval essential to carry out any agreements the militaries of both Koreas signed last month.

The meeting on Monday was held in the South Korean-controlled building, the Peace House, from 10 a.m.

The first of such trilateral talks was held last Tuesday at the Peace House.

In both meetings, three interlocutors represented each side. South Korea’s delegation was led by Army Col. Cho Yong-geun, who heads the Defense Ministry’s North Korea Policy Division. The North was led by Army Col. Om Chang-nam and the UNC was headed by U.S. Army Col. Burke Hamilton, secretary of the UNC’s Military Armistice Commission.

On another front, a high-level military meeting between the two Koreas will be held Friday in Panmunjom to review progress made in the implementation of the bilateral military pact, Seoul’s Defense Ministry announced Monday.

The meeting will start at 10 a.m. in the North Korean-controlled building called Tongilgak, said the ministry, with five people participating from each side. Seoul was said to have made the request to hold the meeting, and Pyongyang accepted.

The South Korean delegation will be led by Maj. Gen. Kim Do-gyun, who works on North Korea policy at the Defense Ministry. His North Korean counterpart will be Lt. Gen. An Ik-san.

Among the agreements both countries’ militaries signed last month, the Defense Ministry highlighted a planned joint military committee to be a key issue for discussion on Friday.

Both sides will specifically negotiate personnel matters and how the committee will be operated, said the ministry.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]