PANMUNJOM --- The two Koreas’ military and government officials on Friday held their first military talks since the inter-Korean summit last month, exchanging pleasantries over their efforts to disarm the jointly controlled area inside the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone.
The general-level meeting began at about 10 a.m. in a North Korean building in the border village of Panmunjom. The five-member South Korean delegation drove across the border due to heavy rain. For previous talks, delegates had crossed the border on foot.
The meeting started with the two Koreas’ chief delegates praising their militaries’ efforts to demilitarize the Joint Security Area. The Defense Ministry announced Thursday that the two Koreas had completed the withdrawal of firearms, ammunition and soldiers from JSA guard posts.
“I’m really impressed to get a firsthand look at the disarming measures in the Joint Security Area,” South Korea’s chief delegate Gen. Kim Do-gyun told his North Korean counterpart, Gen. An Ik-san, before the meeting started.
Referring to the trilateral process that took place Friday and Sunday, when the two Koreas and the United Nations Command verified the disarming measures on both sides, Kim said, “These are unprecedented measures that we have never envisioned before.”
Ahn echoed Kim’s remarks, saying the militaries deserved credit for easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula by taking steps to disarm the JSA, the only place where the two Koreas’ soldiers stood face to face with their guns at the ready.
“Until yesterday, we were at the forefront of clashes and confrontation, aiming guns at each other. Now we are grateful that we’re spearheading the efforts to achieve the goals of the two Koreas and uphold the leaders’ will,” Kim said.
The meeting is the first of its kind since the two Koreas’ defense chiefs signed a comprehensive military pact after the summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month in Pyongyang.
The inter-Korean military agreement includes the establishment of a massive buffer zone along the land and maritime borders, and a no-fly zone above the DMZ and the surrounding area. These measures come into effect Nov. 1.
The two Koreas have taken a series of highly symbolic measures to prevent accidental military skirmishes along the border. Alongside the US-led UN Command, they have withdrawn firearms and ammunition from the JSA after removing land mines near the area.
“At today’s meeting, the two Koreas’ militaries will conduct a midterm assessment of the inter-Korean military agreement and discuss how to move forward,” South Korean chief delegate Kim told reporters as he left for the meeting.
Among the items on the agenda is the formation of a joint military committee. The two sides agreed to establish the committee “soon,” when they signed the inter-Korean military agreement in Pyongyang last month.
The joint committee was proposed after the two Koreas signed a comprehensive nonaggression agreement in 1992, it but never materialized due to turbulent inter-Korean relations.
Defense officials said if the two Koreas’ militaries manage to agree on a launch schedule, the joint committee will serve as a permanent body for the two Koreas to build more trust on military issues.