+ A

Seoul wants Pyongyang’s artillery moved back

June 18,2018
이미지뷰
North Korean multiple-rocket launchers deployed in a military drill on Oct. 30, 2013, observed by leader Kim Jong-un. [RODONG SINMUN]
South Korea is planning to ask North Korea to move 350 artillery pieces along the inter-Korean border aimed at Seoul back from the military demarcation line, a government official said Sunday.

The request will likely be made in the two countries’ next military meeting, though a date was not given.

The last time the two militaries met was last Thursday, when the countries held their first general-level military talks since December 2007. The meeting ended way short of expectations, and North Korea’s chief negotiator, Lt. Gen. An Ik-san, was quoted by pool reports as saying, “Let’s never meet like this again.”

In the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration signed between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 27 during their first summit, through which both leaders agreed to alleviate military tension on the Korean Peninsula, Seoul will ask Pyongyang to pull back hundreds of pieces of military equipment it sees as a threat to the South Korean capital. It would like them moved 30 to 40 kilometers (19 to 25 miles) away from the border.

That includes 150 pieces of 170 millimeter-caliber self-propelled artillery, which has a range of between 40 and 60 kilometers, and 200 pieces of 240 millimeter-caliber multiple rocket launchers, which include Seoul in their range. South Korea’s military believes that the North is capable of showering 10,000 rounds on Seoul within an hour using its artillery.

In defense, South Korea and the United States have deployed radar systems tracking any incoming artillery, surface-to-surface missile systems and air-to-ground weapons. The 210th Field Artillery Brigade at Camp Casey, a U.S. military base in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi, some 40 miles north of Seoul, is mainly tasked with defending South Korea against possible multiple-rocket attacks from the North.

But North Korea’s long-range artillery is mostly hidden in tunnels, meaning South Korea would find it hard to target them.

If Seoul does ask Pyongyang to relocate their artillery, some military experts fear that the North might ask for a reciprocal measure from the South, perhaps the transfer of South Korean and U.S. artillery units lined along the border.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE, PARK YONG-HAN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]