North Korea has 20-60 nuclear weapons, South Korea says

02 October, 2018, 16:42 | Author: Charlene Valdez
  • South Korean soldiers stand guard at the truce village of Panmunjom

Troops from North and South Korea have begun removing some landmines along their heavily fortified border, according to the South's defence ministry.

"Now that the DPRK and the US are aspiring after the establishment of new relations true to the spirit of the June 12 DPRK-US joint statement, it is quite right to put an end to the belligerent relations between them", the Korean Central News Agency said in an English commentary. Panmunjom is one of the most famous sites in the Demilitarized Zone and is where the armistice was signed in 1953 to end the Korean War.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to visit Pyongyang this month to set up a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The South Korean Army estimated that it would take about 200 years to completely remove land mines buried in the DMZ, which is of a size equivalent to Yeouido, an 8.4-square-kilometer island near downtown Seoul.

"I think it's the worst-ever South-North Korean agreement that made a concession in our defense posture before (North Korean) denuclearization is achieved", Shin Wonsik, a former vice chairman of the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week. It refused to provide further details. North Korea's state media didn't immediately confirm the reported demining.

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In a statement, the ministry said the two sides agreed to remove all landmines in the so-called Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom within the next 20 days, with military engineers performing the hazardous task on the South Korean side. The US has said that it will not make such concessions unless the North takes substantive steps in ridding itself of nuclear weapons.

Mines dislodged by flooding and landslides have occasionally caused deaths in front-line areas in South Korea.

The South's Defense Ministry says it detected North Korean soldiers engaging in what it believes are demining-related work at the two sites.

"It's the start of peace".

The South Korean government has also said that demining projects are set to begin in the eastern province of Gangwon to allow teams to search for the remains of soldiers killed in the war.

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Some 600 people evacuated to shelters in Okinawa and electricity was cut to more than 121,000 homes, public broadcaster NHK said. Hokkaido is reeling from a magnitude-6.7 natural disaster in early September that killed more than 40 people.

The Koreas remain split along the 155-mile-long DMZ that was originally created as a buffer zone at the end of the Korean War. It is believed that there are tens of thousands of landmines in the two areas to be cleared.

Moon has advocated dialogue with the isolated North to nudge it toward denuclearisation.

Kim also agreed at the summit to dismantle North Korea's main nuclear facility, pending corresponding measures from the U.S.

Many experts say the fate of inter-Korean deals can be affected by how nuclear negotiations go between the United States and North Korea.

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