Tuesday, September 5, 2000
Land-mine removal is key issue
in Korean highway planBy Jim Lea
Osan bureau chief
Removing land mines in the Demilitarized Zone in order to reconnect rail service and build a new highway between the two Koreas is "very dangerous" for South Korean security unless some countermeasures are taken in advance, a senior member of South Koreas major opposition political party said.
"When the planned railroad and four-lane highway open, it will take only minutes for North Koreans to cross the border and enter the South," said Rep. Kim Deog-ryong, vice president of the Grand National Party, as quoted in Korean newspapers Friday.
"It will be very dangerous if we proceed with the planned mine-clearing work in the DMZ without first establishing security measures with Pyongyang," he said.
South and North Korean soldiers are expected to begin the mine-removal operation later this month.
In a July meeting, officials from both sides decided to restore the rail link and build a 15-mile stretch of four-lane highway across the border. Rail service was cut in 1945.
Since the Korean War, land transportation through the DMZ has been controlled in the southern half of the buffer zone by the U.N. Command and in the northern half by the North Korean army.
The only road through the DMZ now leads to the truce village of Panmunjom, and both the southern and northern ends of it are two lanes wide. There is a four-lane highway linking Kaesong, about seven miles from Panmunjom, with Pyongyang.
South Korea has built a highway from Seoul to the entrance of the U.N. Commands Camp Bonifas at the southern edge of the DMZ.
Many South Koreans feel that the warming relations with the North mean unification is not far off and are far less concerned about a North Korean attack.
But some U.S. and South Korean military commanders say Pyongyang has done nothing to reduce its military capabilities and the North still poses a threat.
Bae Gi-chul contributed to this report.
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