Koreas ‘share understanding’ on steps to ease tension in DMZ, joint excavation of war remains

PANMUNJOM/SEOUL, July 31 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- The two Koreas shared their "understanding" on disarming the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), jointly excavating war remains in the DMZ and withdrawing border guard posts on a trial basis during their general-grade military talks on Tuesday, Seoul officials said.

At the meeting, the first one since June 14, the two sides saw eye to eye on these issues seen as initial steps to enforce the military part of their leaders' April summit agreement to reduce tensions and enhance cross-border ties.

"The South and North converged on pushing for the aforementioned measures in a broad context," Major Gen. Kim Do-gyun, who led the five-member South Korean delegation, told reporters after the talks at the truce village of Panmunjom. The North was represented by Lt. Gen. An Ik-san.

"(We) have decided to continue discussions on the concrete timeline, methods and other issues for implementing them, through notification messages and working-level contacts," he added.

Kim also said that during the talks he delivered Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk's invitation of the North to the Seoul Defense Dialogue, an annual high-level defense forum slated for September.

"The North's side said that it would report the invitation to the authorities and deliver its position on whether to attend it," Kim said.

At the talks, the two sides also reaffirmed their leaders' summit agreement to halt hostile acts in the West Sea.

Later, an official at Seoul's defense ministry pointed particularly to the complexity of disarmament steps.

"It takes a lot of time to just reach mutual understanding in broad terms, if you think about related issues such as the reduction of the guard staff, their free movement and the pullout of guard posts," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"The mutual pullout (of guard posts) is also complex. What would be the starting line for the pullout? Which ones will be withdrawn in the Military Demarcation Line on a trial basis? In what form will the guard posts be withdrawn?" he added.

The talks, which began at 10 a.m, ended at 6:36 p.m. without any press statement, indicating a failure to reach any concrete agreement.

Despite a lack of tangible progress in the talks, the overall mood appeared positive.

"We have sufficiently understood the South's thoughts and we have sufficiently conveyed our thoughts," he said.

"In that sense, today's talks were very productive and ones that actually gave pleasure to people in the North and South," he added.

Kim cast Tuesday's talks as "serious and candid."

"If we study what we discussed more and craft reasonable enforcement plans, the military authorities of the two Koreas will be able to play a core role in fostering an enduring peace on the peninsula," he said.

During last month's talks, the first in more than a decade, the two sides agreed to completely restore their military communication lines.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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