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Korean armistice watchdog determined to do its duty: NNSC

All News 19:28 June 09, 2016

PANMUNJOM, June 9 (Yonhap) -- The Switzerland-Sweden commission in charge of monitoring the six decades-long inter-Korean armistice on the southern side of the Korean Peninsula on Thursday said it is determined to fulfill its duty to safeguard the cease fire pact that has kept the peace in this part of Northeast Asia.

"The Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) has been created based on the armistice. That means we do our job here in Korea as long as this agreement is in force and those who nominated us want us to do the job here," said Maj. Gen. Urs Gerber, the Swiss chief of the originally four-country commission.

Originally the commission was made up of Switzerland, Sweden and Poland and what was previously Czechoslovakia.

The commission was established with the signing of the armistice agreement which ended the 1950-53 Korean War. It is tasked with monitoring the two Koreas and see if they fully implement the truce pact.

The supervisory body's role had been largely symbolic since the 1990's when North Korea refused to recognize Czechoslovakia and Poland as impartial watchdogs of North Korea's armistice implementation following the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Switzerland and Sweden, however, have remained at their posts on the South Korean side, with Poland also sending personnel to South Korea twice a year to convene their full meeting.

"We, NNSC, are the only independent and, hopefully, impartial body of the Korean armistice agreement," the Swiss officer said in a press meeting inside the NNSC camp inside the Demilitarized Zone on Wednesday.

"Our activity is very well appreciated by our partners even though feedback is not always to the liking of our partners," Gerber said.

One major responsibility of the NNSC is to decide on whether South and North Korea complied with the armistice agreement when controversial military issues take place between the countries, like the shelling the two sides exchanged last August.

Amid heightened tensions across the border in August, North Korea fired artillery shells at the South across the Demilitarized Zone. Accusing North Korea of initial provocations, South Korea returned artillery attacks, although no casualties were reported on either side.

Sometimes, the NNSC's results differ from those reached by South Korea and the Military Armistice Commission of the United Nations Command, the official noted.

"That's one of the cases where we did not come completely to the same conclusion," the Swiss major general said, referring to the August artillery exchange between the Koreas.

"There were basically three different conclusions. South Korea, U.S. and NNSC's conclusion were not all exactly the same," he said, declining to discuss further details.

Still, the NNSC has no authority to enforce their decisions and sometimes is denied full access to investigations, Gerber said.

"We cannot enforce ourselves ... We recommend to take action that this should not happen anymore. And that's all we can do, we cannot do more," he pointed out.

"It sounds as if we have no impact," Gerber noted. But, as the NNSC repeats its recommendations over time, however, "Then we get into discussion... then the commander says 'Yes, there is a reason they say so,' and then they come back."

pbr@yna.co.kr
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