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UNC rebuts media reports on its DMZ responsibilities as 'inaccurate'

Defense 15:03 October 23, 2019

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- The U.S.-led U.N. Command (UNC) on Wednesday repudiated media reports on its authority to control access to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, which critics claim hampered cross-border trust-building efforts.

The UNC called the reports "inaccurate," stressing it remains committed to supporting and building confidence on the Korean Peninsula and continues to work closely with South Korea on "all aspects of the UNC mission" to support diplomatic efforts for peace.

Critics have called for "improvements" in the UNC's handling of DMZ entry requests to spur inter-Korean exchanges. In August last year, the UNC blocked South Korea from moving materials through the DMZ for a joint railway survey in the North, though it later allowed their entry.

The UNC countered that it only denies access to the DMZ when the submitted requests do not include all the required information and documentation or seek to gain access to unsafe or unsecured areas within the DMZ.

The UNC also stressed that it approved more than 93 percent of approximately 2,200 requests to access the buffer zone that it received since October last year.

This year, the UNC approved Seoul's requests "in less than 24 hours" to conduct African swine fever decontamination operations within the DMZ and for the shipment of Tamiflu to the North across the Military Demarcation Line in the DMZ, the UNC said in a press release.

"United Nations Command fully respects ROK sovereignty while adhering to its responsibilities for compliance with and enforcement of the Armistice Agreement," the command said. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, Republic of Korea.

Recently, the UNC, an enforcer of the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War, also came under media scrutiny over speculation that the command, led by a U.S. four-star general, seeks to reinforce its organization to strengthen its influence on the peninsula ahead of Washington's envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul.

The speculation is based on rumors that the U.S. seeks to use the multinational command to maintain or bolster its military foothold on the peninsula amid concerns that the OPCON handover will weaken its presence here.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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