October 10, 2018 13:42
Anti-tank barriers built in frontline areas to deter North Korea's mechanized forces from marching south in a war have been removed at an alarming rate this year.
Nine barriers were removed from 2013 to 2017, an annual average of 1.8, according to data from the Joint Chiefs of Staff published by Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Lee Jong-myeong on Tuesday.
But this year alone, 13 barriers were removed or are to be removed, a seven-fold annual increase, Lee said.
The anti-tank barriers are usually concrete structures built over roads that would be blown up in a war to delay a southward invasion.
Only six alternative barriers were built to substitute for the ones that were removed. The military has been reluctant to destroy the barriers despite residents' complaints that they pose a safety threat in traffic.
"Of the 13 barriers Lee mentioned, we actually haven't decided whether to remove 10 yet because we haven't finished consultation with local municipalities," a JCS officer said.
Meanwhile, all of the Army's surveillance equipment in the frontline area will be incapacitated once an inter-Korean military agreement signed last month comes into effect on Nov. 1, according to Bareun Mirae Party lawmaker Kim Joong-ro. He said this would hamstring the activities of the artillery, anti-air defense, and intelligence units.
The two Koreas agreed last month to set a no-fly zone for surveillance drones in a 10 km-wide area on the western frontline and a 15 km-wide area on the eastern frontline.
Army drones provide information to almost all subordinate units like infantry divisions, artillery brigades, anti-air defense units, intelligence battalions, special forces regiments, and chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) warfare battalions.
But their surveillance range will now be so restricted that artillery, anti-air defense, and intelligence units, which have to identify targets in real time, would have great difficulty carrying out their missions properly, Kim said.
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