About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Seoul and Pyongyang will hold working-level military talks on Thursday to discuss necessary measures to conclude a “comprehensive agreement on the military sector” ahead of the fifth inter-Korean summit, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Tuesday.
North Korea proposed to hold the meeting in a notice last Thursday while South Korea accepted the suggestion, the defense ministry said, without providing further details.
“The South and North Korean military authorities agree to hold the 40th inter-Korean working-level military talks in Tongilgak, on the northern part of Panmunjom, at 1000 local time on September 13,” it announced in a written statement.
“At the meeting, both sides will discuss practical issues necessary to conclude a ‘comprehensive agreement on the military sector’ about which the South and North Korean military authorities have been in consultation.”
Last Thursday saw defense ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo announce during a regular news briefing that the North and South Korean militaries have “fleshed out” their comprehensive agreement, which includes a time frame and a method to implement measures discussed at the previous general-level military talks.
Choi cited the demilitarization of the Joint Security Area (JSA), joint recovery operations (JRO) in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and the withdrawal of guard posts within the DMZ on a trial basis as positive examples, adding the two Koreas “shared the view” on the issues.
August saw now-dismissed defense minister Song Young-moo say at a hearing of the National Assembly’s defense committee that the two Koreas agreed to withdraw from around 10 guard posts.
The MND spokesperson explained the measures have been under consideration as part of “substantive measures to implement the Panmunjom Declaration” signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April.
The issue of military tensions on the Korean peninsula is expected to be one of the major items on the agenda at the fifth inter-Korean summit, which will take place in Pyongyang between September 18 and 20.
The two Koreas “agreed to continue to make progress in the ongoing inter-Korean talks to ease military tensions,” South Korean Director of the presidential National Security Office Chung Eui-yong announced last Thursday during a press briefing on the outcome of the visit to Pyongyang by special envoys.
Seoul and Pyongyang “decided to reach an agreement at the inter-Korean summit on concrete plans to establish mutual trust and prevent military clashes,” Chung added.
Last Thursday saw the MND spokesperson say the North and South Korean military authorities strive to reach an agreement on the issues, but it is unclear if both sides will be able to work a conclusion into the upcoming inter-Korean summit.
The working-level military talks will take place less than three months after the two Koreas met in Panmunjom in June in order to discuss the issue of restoring military communication channels on the east and west coasts.
Director of North Korea policy division at the defense ministry Cho Yong-kun will lead the South Korean delegation, while Seoul did not announce the list of the North Korean delegation in Tuesday’s statement.
Cho also led the talks in June, where Army Colonel Om Chang Nam served as the North’s chief delegate.
Those and additional general-level military talks in July were the first of their kind in 10 years, stemming from an agreement in the Panmunjom Declaration “to hold frequent meetings between military authorities, including the Defense Ministers Meeting, in order to immediately discuss and solve military issues.”
A defense ministerial-level meeting has not been held since November 2007, however.
In spite of some setbacks, the North and South Korean militaries have fulfilled achievements. Seoul and Pyongyang also agreed to transform the DMZ into a peace zone “by ceasing as of May 1 this year all hostile acts and eliminating their means.”
As a result of this agreement, the two Koreas have reportedly removed loudspeakers in the areas along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), while Seoul has prevented activists from sending anti-regime leaflets across the border.