South and North Korea are reported to have started removing landmines from along their heavily defended border.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the two sides began removing mines on Monday.
There has been no immediate confirmation from North Korea that its troops have begun working on the project.
The work is part of an agreement between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. They expressed support for the project during talks last month in Pyongyang, the North’s capital.
On Monday, a South Korea statement said that the two sides agreed to remove all landmines in what is called the Joint Security Area within the next 20 days. The area includes the border “village” of Panmunjom.
The agreement also calls for an effort to clear mines from an area near Cheorwon in Gangwon province. The goal is make the area safe for troops from both North and South Korea. In 2019, the troops are to search for the remains of hundreds of soldiers who died in the Korean War. It is believed that South Korean, United States, French and Chinese soldiers are buried there.
Extremely heavy fighting took place in October 1952 in a place known as “Arrow Head Hill.”
In addition to mine clearing, the agreement calls for the removal of guard stations and weapons from the Joint Security Area. Troops remaining in the area are to be unarmed.
The Joint Security Area is the only place along the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, where troops from the two Koreas face each other. It is believed that there are tens of thousands of landmines in the two areas to be cleared.
The United Nations Command supervises the DMZ, which is nearly 250 kilometers long, and has troops stationed there.
The September Panmunjom agreement calls for the sides to “disarm” the demilitarized zone over time to make it a “place for peace and unity.”
The Associated Press reports that the South Korean and U.S. militaries have set one million to 1.2 million landmines south of the DMZ. North Korea is thought to have placed 800,000 to one million landmines on the north side.
The AP reports that the joint project this month is the first to remove landmines from border areas since the early 2000s.
North Korea, South Korea and the U.S. have not signed the 1997 international treaty banning landmines.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Mario Ritter adapted this story for VOA Learning English. His report is based on information from VOA News and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
demilitarized – adj. to remove weapons and military forces from an area
zone – n. an area that is different from other for a special reason