Two Koreas begin DMZ landmine removal work


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.

Experts believe the South Korean and US militaries have planted about 1-1.2 million mines south of the DMZ while North Korea has put about 800,000-1 million mines on its side. It's not unusual for wooden North Korean mine boxes to wash down a swollen river in summer, causing deadly incidents in South Korea.

Since fighting during the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a stalemate, at least nine soldiers have been killed in incidents with North Korean troops, including the killing in 1976 of two USA soldiers by axe-wielding North Koreans, the UNC says.

Seoul says South Korea has begun clearing mines from two sites inside the heavily fortified border with North Korea under a package of tension-reduction deal between the rivals.

While the North Korean army has not revealed exactly when and where the removal operation would occur, South Korea's Ministry of National Defense said similar steps would be seen inside the North's territory.

Seoul's Defense Ministry says North Korea is expected to do the same on Monday.

The Associated Press reports that the South Korean and USA militaries have set one million to 1.2 million landmines south of the DMZ.

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The troops will try to remove mines on the southern parts of the two sites while North Korea is required to do the same on their northern sides.

A top South Korean official told lawmakers that North Korea is estimated to have up to 60 nuclear weapons, in Seoul's first public comment about the size of the North's secrecy-clouded weapons arsenal.

In November 2017, North Korean troops at the JSA shot one of their soldiers defecting to the South five times.

China also sent Li Zhanshu, its third-ranked official, to Pyongyang last month as a special envoy for Xi to take part in events for the 70th anniversary of the DPRK's establishment. They eventually plan to have 35 unarmed personnel from each side guard the village and let tourists freely cross ankle-high concrete slabs that mark the border there.

Meanwhile, on Monday, South Korea held a ceremony marking the recent return of remains of 64 South Korean soldiers missing from the Korean War.

The North's official news agency said its government, led by dictator Kim Jong Un, has taken significant measures to end hostile relations, but that the "trying to subdue" it through sanctions.

But it claimed the United States is "trying to subdue" it through sanctions - an unsubtle call for Washington to lift sanctions if it wants any progress in their stalled nuclear negotiations. It is believed that South Korean, United States, French and Chinese soldiers are buried there.