South Korea proposes that North Korea move its artillery away from the border
South Korea has just offered the first test of North Korea's sincerity: the Kim regime is being asked to blunt the edge of its dagger at the throat of South Korea by moving its long-range artillery away from the border between the two halves of the country. The North's 14,100 artillery pieces, including 5,500 multiple rocket-launchers, have been the regime's primary deterrent to an invasion or other regime-change moves because of its ability to inflict horrendous mass casualties on Seoul's population of around 25 million and demolish much of the glittering capital city.
The South Korean Yonhap News Agency reports:
South Korea proposed that North Korea move its long-range artillery away from the heavily fortified border in an effort to reduce tensions during last week's rare cross-border military talks, government sources here said Sunday.
During Thursday's general-grade meeting, the first in more than a decade, Seoul made a series of suggestions, including relocating the artillery pieces to areas 30 to 40 kilometers away from the Military Demarcation Line separating the two Koreas, the insiders said.
The two sides held the talks to follow up on the Panmunjom Declaration from the April 27 inter-Korean summit at the truce village, which calls for joint efforts to alleviate military tensions and "practically eliminate the danger of war."
152mm M1974 Tŏkch'ŏn – North Korea Victory Day, 2013 01. (Wikimedia Commons.)
That the request comes from the South is highly significant. Critics of President Trump's summit argue that North Korea is splitting away South Korea from its alliance with the U.S. and warn that Trump's suspension of planned war games with South Korea hands Kim Jong-un a prized concession with nothing to show for in return. Critics ignore the fact that the war games, which are many months in the future, can be restored any time if the North behaves badly.
Now the South Korean negotiators have put their Northern cousins on the spot with this request to give up their survival insurance policy.
My wild guess is that the North will not want to kill the deal but will ask for steps that would delay the loss of its checkmate capability. There are other less threatening (to Kim) steps that can be taken first as the two Koreas build mutual confidence, such as a partial movement of artillery followed by reciprocal moves from the U.S. and SoKo governments. A kind of mutual assured destruction strip poker, in other words.
There could be other confidence-building moves. For example:
During Thursday's talks, the two Koreas agreed to completely restore their western and eastern military communication lines. They also exchanged opinions on demilitarizing the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom on a "trial basis" and agreed to thoroughly implement a 2004 bilateral agreement on preventing accidental clashes in the West Sea.
But the fact that the border artillery is on the table so quickly suggests that the South Koreans believe in Kim's willingness to drop his emerging nuclear blackmail capability and are testing that resolve with the proposal to weaken his ability to inflict unacceptable casualties and damage.
There is always the possibility that the North will refuse and thereby put the entire project on hold. So this proposal is indeed a test of the genuineness of Trump's achievement.
Stand by for further developments. The North's response will tell us a lot.