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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea on Tuesday demolished 10 guard posts (GPs) in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) as part of preliminary steps towards implementing September’s inter-Korean military agreement, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced.
Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to completely remove all GPs from the DMZ earlier in the year, in a broad military agreement signed as an annex to the Pyongyang Joint Declaration.
That agreement saw them decide to begin this process through the trial destruction of 11 GPs on both sides of the DMZ, later deciding to retain one GP on each side for “memorial” purposes.
“The North Korean side demolished 10 guard posts (GP), which it has committed to withdrawing on a trial basis, by means of blowing them up as of 1500 local time today,” the South Korean defense ministry said in a press statement on Tuesday.
Pyongyang notified Seoul of its plan to blow up the ten GPs in advance, the defense ministry said, through the military communications line on the west coast.
The two Koreas in October agreed to complete the withdrawal of 22 GPs by the end of this month, with the MND on Tuesday reiterating that both sides will seek to “thoroughly verify” progress in withdrawing and demolishing the posts by the end of 2018.
The North and South Koreans reportedly completed the process of pulling out firearms, equipment, and personnel on duty from GPs on November 10.
The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) originally planned to demolish the GPs using an excavator amid concerns about environmental preservation and the safety of military personnel.
Last Thursday saw the defense ministry announce that the South Korean military had blown up one observation post on the central front in Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province.
The South Korean defense ministry released footage of the demolition later in the day
The two Koreas and the United Nations Command (UNC) have also in recent weeks pushed ahead with the demilitarization of Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom.
A trilateral consultative body held a working-level meeting on surveillance equipment on November 12, the ROK MND said last week, adding a two-day on-site survey was conducted on the same day.
At the talks, the two Koreas and the UNC were reported to have held a “detailed discussion” on pending issues, including the adjustment of surveillance equipment to guarantee freedom of movement for tourists and visitors.
The two Koreas in September agreed to allow visitors and tourists to freely move at the JSA between 0900 and 1700 local time.
The working-level meeting came less than a week after the three parties agreed to establish new guard duty regulations for the newly-demilitarized JSA.
Seoul and Pyongyang have sealed previously-existing GPs, and set up a new South Korean-manned GP on the Northern side and a North Korean-manned GP on the Southern side of the JSA.
The North and the South have taken various other measures to fulfill their commitments in the military agreement, including ongoing mine clearance in Cheorwon County.
They aim to finish by the end of the month, to allow for inter-Korean joint recovery operations at the site from April 1 to October 31 next year.
November also saw the two sides begin a field survey on the shared use of the Han/Imjin River Estuary, aimed to be completed by the end of December.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND)