South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

A South Korean soldier stands guard on Thursday, November 15, as construction equipment is used to destroy a South Korean guard post in the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

  • Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them
  • The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month

CHEORWON, South Korea: South Korea exploded a front-line guard post Thursday, sending plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky above the border with North Korea, in the most dramatic scene to date in the rivals’ efforts to reduce animosities that sparked last year’s fears of war.
Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them. The steps are part of agreements signed in September during a meeting between their leaders in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
On Thursday, South Korea’s military invited a group of journalists to watch the destruction of a guard post with dynamite in the central border area of Cheorwon. The journalists were asked to stay hundreds of meters (yards) away as black smoke enveloped the hilly border area. They later watched soldiers and other workers bulldoze another guard post.
While most of the South Korean guard posts are being destroyed with construction equipment for environmental and safety reasons, dynamite was used for the first structure because of its location on a high hill where it was difficult employ excavators, the Defense Ministry said.
North Korea is demolishing its guard posts with explosives, according to South Korean media.
The guard posts are inside the 248-kilometer (155-mile)-long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile)-wide border called the Demilitarized Zone. Unlike its name, it’s the world’s most heavily fortified border with an estimated 2 million land mines planted in and near the zone. The area has been the site of violence and bloodshed since the 1945 division of the Korean Peninsula, and civilians need special government approval to enter the zone.
The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month before jointly verifying the destruction next month. South Korea had about 60 posts inside the DMZ guarded by layers of barbed wire and manned by troops with machine guns. North Korea was estimated to have 160 such front-line posts.
Under the September agreements, the Koreas are also disarming the shared border village of Panmunjom and clearing mines from another DMZ area where they plan their first-ever joint searches for Korean War dead. They’ve also halted live-fire exercises along the border.
The deals are among a set of steps they have taken since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached out to Seoul and Washington early this year with a vague commitment to nuclear disarmament. The fast-improving inter-Korean ties have raised worries among many in South Korea and the United States as global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program has produced little recent progress.


Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

Updated 52 min 2 sec ago
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Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

  • Australia will follow the US and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  • Citizens were told to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia

SYDNEY: Australia on Friday warned citizens to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce — as soon as Saturday — that his government will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital.
Scores of Australians preparing to jet off to Bali and other tropical island destinations for upcoming summer holidays should “exercise a high degree of caution,” the Department of Foreign Affairs warned.
Officials in Canberra told AFP they expected the announcement to come on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but cautioned that events could yet alter those plans.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks.
Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last May prompted tens of thousands of Palestinians to approach the heavily-protected Israeli border. At least 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire that day.
Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications.
But recognizing Jerusalem would help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.
His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.
But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield.
The Palestinian government would press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their Ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” if the move went ahead, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP.
Indonesia’s government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year, when Morrison floated the idea of both recognizing Jerusalem and moving the Australian embassy there.
The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.
In the meantime, Australia’s foreign ministry has moved to prepare the ground.
“Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya,” it warned in a public notice Friday.
“Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia’s Consulates-General in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.”Exercise a high degree of caution.”
Tensions are currently running high between Israel and the Palestinians.
At least 235 Palestinians and two Israelis have died during violence in Gaza since March, mostly in border clashes.
On Thursday the Israeli army launched raids into the Palestinian city of Ramallah after a Palestinian shot dead two Israeli soldiers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu vowed to ‘legalize’ thousands of settlements homes considered unlawfully-built even by Israel.
In total six people were killed in the most violent 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.