South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators
- The Koreas have agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of the watchtowers in the demilitarised zone, halt live-fire exercises and search for war dead
South Korea dynamited one of its frontline guard posts on Thursday as part of agreements to lower military tensions with North Korea.
The two Koreas last week completed withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them. The steps are part of the agreements signed in September during their leaders’ summit.
South Korea’s military on Thursday invited a group of journalists to watch the destruction of a guard post with dynamite in the central border town of Cheorwon.
Plumes of thick, black smokes billowed from the site. The military later allowed the journalists to watch soldiers and other workers bulldozing another guard post with excavators.
South Korea is dismantling its guard posts mostly with construction equipment because of safety and environment concerns. But it used dynamite for the Cheorwon structure because it was located on a high hill that was difficult to access with excavators, according to Seoul’s Defence Ministry.
North Korea has been demolishing its guard posts with explosives, according to South Korean media.
The structures are located inside the 248-kilometre-long, 4-kilometre-wide border, called the demilitarised zone. Despite its name, the zone is the world’s most heavily fortified border – peppered with an estimated 2 million landmines. The area has been the scene of numerous violent incidents and bloodshed since the 1945 division of the Korean peninsula, and civilians need special government approvals to enter the zone.
The Koreas have agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts each by the end of this month before jointly verifying the work next month. Inside the DMZ, South Korea was known to have run about 60 posts guarded by layers of barbed-wire fences and manned by combat troops with machine guns. North Korea was estimated to have 160 such frontline posts.
Under the September deals, the Koreas are also disarming their shared border village of Panmunjom and clearing mines from another DMZ area where they plan their first-ever joint searches for Korean war dead. They’ve also halted live-fire exercises along the border.
The deals are among a set of cooperation and reconciliation steps the two Koreas have taken since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reached out to Seoul and Washington early this year with a vague commitment to nuclear disarmament. The fast-improving inter-Korean ties have raised worries among many in South Korea and the United States as global nuclear diplomacy on the North’s weapons programme has produced little progress recently.