September 20, 2018 13:24
The two Koreas signed a military pact in Pyongyang on Wednesday to implement the declaration, which was adopted at the first inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom on April 27.
The pact establishes ground, maritime, and air buffer zones in frontline areas for the first time since the armistice in 1953. Cheong Wa Dae said this is a concrete measure aimed at reducing the risk of war on the Korean Peninsula.
The two Koreas agreed to completely halt all hostile acts in all spaces on the land, at sea and in the air that could cause military tensions and clashes. They also agreed to launch a cross-border military committee to discuss massive military drills and arms buildups, blockades and interdictions of various types and obstruction of marine navigation, and reconnaissance activities.
Pundits were quick to warn that this could weaken South Korea's defenses in the face of an unpredictable North Korea. They were especially alarmed at a 10 to 40-km-wide no-fly zone across the military demarcation line and the proposed halt of aerial reconnaissance activities.
From now on, tactical maneuvers, including live-fire drills like air-to-ground missile attack drills, and aerial reconnaissance activities will be banned in the no-fly zone. Currently, the UN Command sets only a 9-km-wide no-fly zone from the MDL.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries have overwhelming superiority over the North Korean military in terms of tactical capabilities of aerial reconnaissance and mid- and large-sized drones over the demilitarized zone, so the agreement mostly benefits North Korea.
Spying on the DMZ is important for South Korea because the North has deployed about 70 percent of its army, naval and air force troops and equipment south of Pyongyang and Wonsan. If reconnaissance activities are halted, that could create a serious vacuum in South Korea's surveillance of the North's 340-plus long-range artillery pieces that are pointed at the Seoul metropolitan area.
Shin Won-sik, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "We've depended heavily on unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance of the North's long-range guns that are hidden inside caves. But from now on, it'll be difficult to adequately spy on them."
The two Koreas also agreed to halt various types of military drills near the DMZ from Nov. 1. Accordingly, artillery drills and regimental-level field maneuvers will be suspended in areas within 5 km from the MDL.
They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts on each side that are located within 1 km from the MDL. But North Korea has 160 guard posts there, about three times South Korea's 60, so again the reduction is far more significant from the South Korean side.
The agreement was signed by Defense Minister Song Young-moo and his North Korean counterpart No Kwang-chol.
Some of the key elements in the agreement, such as the expansion of the no-fly zone and the disarming of the Joint Security Area in the truce village of Panmunjom, require consultations with the UN Command and therefore the U.S. Forces Korea.
The Defense Ministry here explained that there will be a trilateral consultative body between the two Koreas and the UNC to discuss and implement the decision to disarm the JSA, which is stated in the appendix of the agreement.
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