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Pyongyang’s silence sheds doubt on inter-Korean military talks

Propspects that two Koreas will hold military talks this month are fading, as the North appears to have pulled back on all inter-Korean cooperation plans following the breakdown of its second summit with the United States last month.

The Ministry of National Defense here said Sunday it recently proposed to hold military talks with the North via a communications line, but it had not received confirmation. Seoul has been pushing to hold military talks before the end of this month, as the implementation of the joint military pact with North Korea has dragged. During a National Security Council meeting on March 4, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo also said he would hold military talks with North Korea before the end of this month. 

South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (Yonhap)
South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (Yonhap)

The militaries of the two Koreas signed a Comprehensive Military Agreement on Sept. 19, chiefly aimed at calling off all “hostile acts” and preventing military confrontations. They agreed to establish buffer zones along the land, sea and air borders, to remove guard posts in the Demilitarized Zone and to allow freedom of movement inside the Joint Security Area by removing the Military Demarcation Line there.

With the reconciliatory mood set in place following a series of inter-Korean summits, the two Koreas moved swiftly to turn the heavily fortified border into “a peace zone,” removing land mines and guard posts.

But the plans have lost traction since the end of last year, as the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump failed to resolve issues of denuclearization and economic sanctions.

The two sides appear to have toughened their stances afterward, with Pyongyang even saying it will “reconsider” negotiating with Washington. On Friday, North Korea abruptly pulled out of a liaison office with South Korea in the Northern border city of Kaesong, the Ministry of Unification here said.

In an effort to provide a breakthrough, the Defense Ministry here has continued to push to implement the inter-Korean military pact, but the North is maintaining its silence, the ministry said.

As for the agreed joint excavation of war remains at Arrowhead Ridge that is to kick off on April 1, North Korea has not been responsive, making Seoul’s Defense Ministry reconsider holding the starting ceremony on April 2.

To repatriate the remains of soldiers buried in the upland area in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, where some of the harshest battles of the 1950-53 Korean War were fought, the two Koreas had agreed to form a team consisting of 80 to 100 officials from each side for the seven-month project.

But while Seoul’s Defense Ministry sent a list of personnel to take part in the project on March 6, the North has not reciprocated, the ministry here said.

This year, the two Koreas only held one round of colonel-level military talks on Jan. 30, in which they discussed the joint use of the Han River estuary, where civilian access has been limited due to tensions.

By Jo He-rim (
Korea Herald Youtube