The South Korean government Sunday denied the report that the two Koreas discussed withdrawing North Korea’s long-range artilleries, but speculation persists that the idea would be discussed at future inter-Korean military talks.
The Ministry of National Defense said that the idea of pulling back the long-range artillery along the border with North Korea was never brought up during the inter-Korean military talks held on Thursday.
“Neither South Korea nor North Korea proposed the idea of pulling back long-range artilleries,” Defense Ministry Spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told The Korea Herald. “The reports that suggest otherwise are wrong.”
But the controversy over the possible withdrawal of the long-range artilleries is likely to continue to roil South Korea, as the issue could be discussed during future high-level military talks between the two Koreas.
|An image released by the Korean Central News Agency in March 2016 shows North Korea conducting artillery rills. Yonhap|
After holding their first general-level talks in 11 years on Thursday at the truce village of Panmunjeom, the two Koreas‘ militaries agreed to hold further general-level or working-level military talks between June and July.
The controversy over the long-range artilleries started with a report from Yonhap News Agency that the South Korean military demanded that the North Korean military pull back long-range artilleries and reposition them at least 30 kilometers away from the Military Demarcation Line.
While the North Korean military called for “reciprocal measures” to be taken by the South Korea military and US forces stationed there, the North’s delegates did not express outright objection to the proposal during the military talks, Yonhap reported.
“It is significant because the two Koreas’ militaries began to discuss the issue of withdrawing long-range artilleries as a legitimate agenda item for the military talks,” an anonymous government source was quoted as saying.
The South Korean delegates delivered a position to their North Korean counterpart that the North needs to come up with a substantial measure to ease military tension by pulling back long-range artilleries targeting Seoul, according to Yonhap.
The North has deployed layers of an artillery system capable of hitting Seoul and its metropolitan area. Chief among them are the Koksan 170-millimeter guns, 240-millimeter multiple-rocket launchers and 300-millimeter multiple-rocket launchers.
The reports came after criticism that the much-anticipated military talks ended with few specific measures to implement the Panmunjeom Declaration, adopted at the April inter-Korean summit, in which the two Koreas’ leaders pledged to cease all acts of cross-border hostilities.
While the two Koreas’ militaries agreed to fully restore their cross-border communication lines in the East and West Sea, the joint agreement fell short of achieving initial expectations of pulling back guard posts and heavy artilleries from the DMZ.
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)