S. Korea Seeks to Withdraw Guard Post Forces from DMZ on 'Trial' Basis
(Source: Yonhap News Agency; issued July 24, 2018)
SEOUL --- South Korea's defense ministry said Tuesday that it is pushing for a plan to withdraw forces and their equipment from border guard posts "on a trial basis" in line with the April inter-Korean summit agreement to halt all hostile acts and reduce tensions.

In a policy briefing to the National Assembly's defense committee, the ministry also said that it would consider the "full-scale pullout" in sync with a cross-border survey of historical remains and ecological features within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

After their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to transform the DMZ into a "peace zone in a genuine sense."

"To realize the transformation of the DMZ into a peace zone, as stated in the Panmunjom Declaration, (the ministry) is seeking a plan to expand the (withdrawal) program in stages after pulling out troops and equipment from the guard posts within the DMZ," the ministry said.

The ministry, in addition, said it would seek a joint program with the United States and the North to excavate remains of people buried in the DMZ as part of efforts to enforce the Panmunjom Declaration and the June 12 summit agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim.

Also on a trial basis, the ministry would seek to demilitarize the Joint Security Area in the truce village.

"Based on the spirit of the Armistice Agreement, (the ministry will seek) to reduce the guard personnel and rearrange firearms," the ministry said.

In the briefing, it also reaffirmed that it will push for the plan to designate the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto maritime boundary, as a "peace sea" in phases, and establish a joint fishing area for fishermen from the two Koreas.

The plan is part of efforts to prevent naval clashes near the NLL in the West Sea, which has been a major flashpoint. The North has denied the line, arguing it was unilaterally drawn by the U.S.-led U.N. Command after the 1950-53 Korean War.

Also in the briefing, the ministry said it would go ahead with a plan to strengthen core capabilities to counter North Korean missile and nuclear threats.

The plan appears to refer to its push for the "three-axis" system that consists of the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation, an operational plan to incapacitate the North Korean leadership in a major conflict, the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike platform, and the Korea Air and Missile Defense system.

Amid ongoing peace efforts, speculation has persisted that the ministry will revise the plan to make it look less hostile to the North.

For the three-axis system and other purposes, the ministry seeks to propose 46.9 trillion won (US$41.3 billion) for next year's budget, an increase of 8.6 percent from the previous year.

During the parliamentary session, the ministry also said it would consider changing the name and status of the Defense Security Command under fire for a set of alleged misdeeds.

"If necessary, we will mull ways to fundamentally readjust the command, including changing its name, character and where it belongs," it said.

A probe is under way over the claim that the command explored the possibility of imposing martial law last year to quell public protests if a court ruling over the fate of corruption-tainted President Park Geun-hye caused unrest.

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