U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to hold a new round of direct talks with his North Korean counterparts soon, and he's kept the prospect of a declaration officially ending the Korean War on the table. The Koreas remain split along the 248-kilometer (155-mile) -long DMZ that was originally created as a buffer zone at the end of the Korean War. Later Monday, the South Korean military detected North Korean soldiers engaged in what it believed was demining on the northern part of the sites, a South Korean defense official said on condition of animosity, citing department rules.
In April, South Korea said it had stopped broadcasting propaganda via loudspeakers along the border to "ease the military tension between the two Koreas". Many South Korean mines are also believed to have been dislodged due to flooding or landslides.
The militaries launched the removal work in the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the DMZ, which they have agreed to disarm, and part of Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, where they plan to carry out a joint project to excavate Korean War remains next year.
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.
North Korea on Tuesday ruled out dismantling its nuclear arsenal in exchange for the United States declaring an end to the Korean War, saying a peace treaty should "never be a bargaining chip".
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In the case of Arrow Head Hill, they aim to remove the mines by the end of November. It is believed that there are tens of thousands of landmines in the two areas to be cleared.
Later Monday, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in defended the military deals that he said would "end all hostile acts at the land, sea and sky between South and North Korea".
Apparently reflecting the improving ties, North Korea sent Choe Ryong-hae, its de facto No. 2 official, to a reception hosted by the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang last week to mark China's founding anniversary. In a midday speech marking South Korea's 70th Armed Forces Day, Moon also called for a stronger national defense, saying "peace can continue only when we have power and are confidant of protecting ourselves".
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with US President Donald Trump at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on 12 June 2018. They were earlier found in North Korea during a joint 1996-2005 excavation project between the United States and North Korea before forensic identification tests in Hawaii confirmed they belong to South Korean war dead, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.
North Korea, South Korea and the USA have not signed the 1997 global treaty banning landmines. Past rapprochement efforts were often stalled after an global standoff over the North's nuclear ambitions intensified.