South, North Korea Begin Removing Landmines from Border

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The Latest: Moon defends recent military deals with North

South Korean troops entered the heavily fortified border with North Korea on Monday to remove mines under tension-reducing agreements reached last month.

However, three senior U.S. officials involved in North Korea policy previously told Reuters that no progress has been made in moving toward serious negotiations on eliminating or even halting Kim's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

KCNA said that Pyongyang was willing to take "such. steps as eternal dismantlement" of its nuclear complex "if the U.S. takes a corresponding measure" but again did not elaborate.

Seoul's Defense Ministry said the remains of about 300 South Korean, French and US soldiers are believed to be in the area.

The official refused to provide more details.

Demining projects are also set to begin on Monday in Gangwon province in South Korea's east, to allow teams to search for the remains of soldiers killed in the war, the ministry added. Troops remaining in the area are to be unarmed.

The JSA, also known as the truce village of Panmunjom, is the only spot along the tense, 250km "demilitarised zone" (DMZ) border where troops from the two countries stand face to face. About 2 million mines are believed to be peppered inside and near the DMZ, which is also guarded by hundreds of thousands of combat troops, barbed wire fences and tank traps on both sides.

Mines dislodged by flooding and landslides have occasionally caused deaths in front-line areas in South Korea.

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In November 2017, North Korean troops at the JSA shot one of their soldiers defecting to the South five times.

Propaganda loudspeakers and some guard posts along the border have already been dismantled.

North Korea is estimated to have up to 60 nuclear weapons, a South Korean official said on Tuesday, the first public announcement about the hermit kingdom's secret arsenal.

"The North is trying to reduce the negotiating value of Washington's potential offer of a peace treaty, by suggesting that "it's not good enough to make us denuclearize", he told South Korea's news agency Yonhap. -North Korean nuclear diplomacy.

Military engineers are performing the hazardous task on the South Korean side.

"I think it's the worst-ever South-North Korean agreement that made a concession in our defense posture before (North Korean) denuclearization is achieved", Shin Wonsik, a former vice chairman of the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week. Past rapprochement efforts were often stalled after a standoff over the North's nuclear ambitions intensified. Kim Jong Un has subsequently held a series of summits with U.S., South Korean and Chinese leaders and taken some steps like dismantling his nuclear-testing site.

But it claimed the United States is "trying to subdue" it through sanctions - an unsubtle call for Washington to lift sanctions if it wants any progress in their stalled nuclear negotiations.

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