For the first time since the division of the peninsula, troops from both sides of the border have crossed the demarcation line within the DMZ to perform inspections of dismantled guard-posts. Ongoing negotiations between Seoul and Pyongyang have seen numerous agreements aimed at reducing military tensions along the DMZ and Northern Limit Line. In recent weeks, the northern side dismantled 10 guard-posts along the highly militarised border in what was a mostly symbolic act aimed at further reducing tensions. There are still hundreds of guard-posts in the DMZ operated by both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and so the removal of 10 on the northern side is little more than a gesture of goodwill.
A KPA officer in winter dress greets an ROK soldier at the MDL
In recent days, troops from the ROK crossed the military demarcation line, the line within the DMZ which marks the divide between northern and southern controlled territory, to inspect the dismantled posts. Northern troops also crossed into the south for the same reason. This is perhaps one of the most symbolic actions we have seen so far during the inter-korean peace talks. A year ago, there was talk of armed conflict on the peninsula, now we are seeing footage of military personnel, trained for direct combat with each-other, shaking hands, sharing cigarettes and laughing together. This is certainly something that would have been unimaginable a year ago.
The events were recorded by northern soldiers, potentially for playback on Korean Central TV
It is worth bearing in mind however, whilst relations between the two Koreas are warming and numerous unprecedented events have been reported seemingly paving the way for closer ties between Pyongyang and Seoul; the talks are hemmed in by a lack of progress between the US and DPRK in their ongoing denuclearisation talks and heavy sanctions still remain in place on Pyongyang. The past few months has shown us that North Korea is still prepared to switch back to it’s old habits, stating only a few weeks ago that should sanctions remain in place, then they would be prepared to resume weapons testing. We still remain in a state of very fragile peace, however these recent developments have demonstrated diplomatic success, even if it is only symbolic.