SEOUL (Reuters) – North and South Korea held their first three-way talks with the UN (UNC) on Tuesday to discuss ways to demilitarize the border while neighbors push for peace, Seoul's defense ministry said.
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in talking on a walk at Samjiyon Guesthouse in Ryanggang province, North Korea, September 20, 201
The two sides agreed this week to rebuild rail and road links, despite US concerns that a rapid thawing of relations could undermine efforts to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. The meeting on Tuesday followed their agreement at a Pyongyang summit last month to hold talks with the UNC, which overlap with US forces in the south and oversee demilitarized zone (DMZ) affairs Path to disarmament pave the most fortified borders in the world.
The meeting lasted for about two hours in the border village of Panmunjom and was led by military colonel colonels from each side, including Burke Hamilton, secretary of the UNC Military Armistice Commission, the ministry said.
"They discussed practical issues related to demilitarization steps that should be implemented in the future," a statement said after the talks.
The moves ranged from the removal of firearms and guards to the reduction of personnel to the adjustment of surveillance equipment, the ministry said, adding that the three-way channel would be used for further discussion.
North Korea and the rich, democratic south are still technically at war because the Korean War of 1950-53 ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
As a first step towards the pact of last month, the neighbors are trying to pull 11 sentries within a 1 kilometer radius of the military demarcation line by the end of the year.
They started mine clearance this month in several small areas and will build roads for a pilot project scheduled for April to dig up the remains of Korean War soldiers.
Both sides will also withdraw all Joint Security Area (JSA) firearms in Panmunjom, reduce the number of soldiers stationed there to 35, and exchange information about surveillance equipment, in line with the Arms Pact.
The tourists are allowed access to the JSA.
The measures, which were to be adopted within a month, would turn the border into a "place of peace and reconciliation," the ministry said.
"Most operations will actually be carried out by the two Koreas, but to ensure UNC support, as it has American elements and also directs the Military Standstill Commission," a South Korean military source said on condition of anonymity.
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates and Clarence Fernandez