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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The two Koreas and the United Nations Command (UNC) at talks on Tuesday agreed on fresh guard duty rules for the newly-demilitarized Joint Security Area (JSA).
The announcement followed a round of trilateral meetings – the third of their kind this year – held between 1000 and 1300 local time at the Freedom House on the southern part of Panmunjom.
In a move which follows the sealing of previously-existing militarized guard posts (GPs) in the JSA, the two sides on Tuesday agreed to begin operations of a South Korean-manned GP on the Northern side and a North Korean-manned GP on the Southern side.
“We agree to establish ‘regulations for joint duty’ that will be applied to stand guard duty in each other’s side within the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom,” a statement by the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) following the talks read.
The new rules will be finalized “in a short period of time through means of exchanging a document,” it added.
The three sides completed the process of pulling out GPs, personnel and firearms as well as deploying around 35 unarmed guard personnel on each side on October 25 following the completion of mine clearance in the JSA.
The three parties then verified progress in the demilitarization at the JSA on October 26 and 27.
September saw the two Koreas agree to replace pre-existing GPs with a South Korean GP on the Northern side of the Panmunjom Bridge and a DPRK GP near an entry checkpoint on the Southern side of the JSA.
Contrary to some expectations, however, the three sides were unable to come to an agreement on when the demilitarized JSA will be open to the public, which North Korea previously said it believed would begin on November 1.
Seoul and Pyongyang in September agreed to allow visitors and tourists to freely move within the JSA in Panmunjom between 0900 and 1700 local time.
The ROK MND in its statement said that the third round of the meeting served to “mutually confirm the faithful implementation” of the inter-Korean military agreement.
The South Korean defense ministry said participants in the meeting were the same as those during two previous rounds of talks in October.
Meanwhile, ongoing mine sweeping operations near Hill 281/Arrowhead Ridge in Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) unearthed their third and fourth remains in the past week, the South Korean military announced on Tuesday.
The clearance will allow the construction of inter-Korean road to be complete by the end of this year, aimed at facilitating a planned pilot Inter-Korean Joint Operation to Recover Remains project in the area, scheduled to take place between April 1 and October 31 next year.
The ROK Ministry of National Defense Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification (MAKRI) said that mine clearance had unearthed the fibula bone of the third set of remains on October 28, while a tibia bone was discovered on Monday during the road construction.
The ROK MAKRI presumed that two sets of remains are from soldiers killed in action at Arrowhead Ridge, and will proceed with precise identification and DNA analysis to verify their identity.
A total of four remains have been unearthed since October 24, when the South Korean military discovered two remains near Arrowhead Ridge.
Remains of approximate 200 South Korean soldiers and 100 sets of U.S. and French war dead are believed to be buried in the area, the MND has said.
In other inter-Korean military developments, Seoul and Pyongyang on Thursday suspended land, air, and sea military drills and began the application of no-fly zone along the military demarcation line (MDL).
The two also on Monday began a joint field survey on the shared use of Han/Imjin River Estuary.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)