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(2nd LD) Koreas begin verifying DMZ guard post pullout

All Headlines 10:50 December 12, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS para 7; ADDS more info in para 9)

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea began a one-day process to verify their recent work to withdraw most guard posts in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) through mutual onsite visits Wednesday, Seoul's defense ministry said.

They were set to each send a seven-member verification team for each guard post subject to their pullout agreement, which is part of a broader accord aimed at reducing military tensions and building confidence.

Seoul and Pyongyang initially agreed to demolish 11 guard posts each in the DMZ but decided later to keep one of them each unarmed in light of their historical value.

Each team, led by a colonel-level officer, consists of five verification personnel and two filming staff. To walk across the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), 11 teams from each side were set to use cross-border paths newly built to carry out the verification task.

South Korea began the verification process in the morning, while the North will check the South's posts in the afternoon.

The verification staff's tasks include checking if all weapons and troops were pulled out and whether all underground facilities are disarmed.

"The two Koreas' troops have made cross-border paths in the DMZ and are moving across the MDL peacefully. ... This is the first such case since the country's division," the ministry said in a press release.

"This clearly shows the will of the two Koreas' military authorities to implement their accord," it added.

Aside from the withdrawn guard posts, the Koreas are known to have some 200 such facilities in the DMZ. Their ultimate goal is to take down all of the guard posts and transform the buffer zone into a "peace zone."

The Koreas' defense ministers signed the comprehensive military accord, which includes the withdrawal of 11 guard posts after the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.

The accord includes a series of confidence building and conventional arms control measures, such as disarming the Joint Security Area in the DMZ and setting up air, ground and maritime buffer zones to prevent accidental clashes.

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows troops engaging in a project to remove some border guard posts. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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