Koreas to consult over removing all DMZ guard posts

Dec 21, 2018, 09:13 am

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President Moon Jae-in speaks during the defense ministry’s briefing on its policy plans for 2019 at the ministry building in Seoul on Thursday./ Source: Yonhap News

By AsiaToday reporter Lee Seok-jong

The Ministry of National Defense has decided to push for negotiations between the North and South Korean military authorities over removing all guard posts (GPs) in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). 

The ministry said it will set up an inter-Korean joint military committee to hold regular meetings once every quarter and discuss various issues such as the implementation of the September 19 Inter-Korean Military Agreement. 

The ministry briefed President Moon Jae-in Thursday on its policy plans for 2019. The briefing was held under the slogan, “A strong defense that makes peace with the people.” 

The defense ministry said it will actively implement the September military agreement to support the goals of denuclearization and a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“The two Koreas have implemented the first step of transforming the DMZ into a peace zone by removing some guard posts from the border area this year,” the ministry said. “We will push for consultations with Pyongyang over removing all such facilities from the DMZ.”

“Although the general public is not aware of the situation of the demilitarized zone, but the withdrawal of the GPs will drastically remove military tension on the Korean Peninsula,” said the president, who visited the North Korean policy office after the briefing. “I hope the people too sense the change.”

The defense ministry briefed that it is in talks with the North to launch an inter-Korean joint military committee to consult military matters. 

It plans to provide conditions for holding a regular meeting once every quarter with a vice ministerial representative from each side leading the committee.

The joint military committee will hold negotiations over the implementation of major issues of the September military agreement, such as determining specific area of maritime peace zone and joint fishing zone.

The defense ministry said it will establish direct communication channels between the Koreas’ top defense officials, such as defense ministers and chiefs of joint forces. 

Regarding the disarmament of Panmunjom Joint Security Area (JSA), the ministry said it is preparing so that free travel for both sides is allowed in the JSA. “We will actively make efforts to expand the number of domestic and overseas tourists and establish peace through stable joint operations of service posts,” the ministry said. 

In response, Moon said, “If preparations for such free travel in the JSA are ready, I suggest to make the Korean version of the Santiago walking trail in Spain near the demilitarized zone allowing general public to make a visit.”

The defense ministry also briefed Moon on early takeover of wartime operational control (OPCON) of the country’s troops.

As part of preparations for the OPCON transfer, South Korea and the U.S. plan to verify Seoul’s “initial operational capability” (IOC), needed to lead wartime operations, during their combined military exercise for the first time next year.

By August, the allies will complete documents that govern their combined defense mechanism and crisis management procedures, which will be applied after the OPCON transfer.

“Based on the strong ROK-US alliance, we will systematically and actively push for the early OPCON transfer,” Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told reporters after the policy briefing. 

#GP #guard post #military #inter-Korean #September military agreement 
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