By Rachel Lee
The United Nations Command (UNC) has revised rules to allow South Korean and U.S. military forces to carry heavy weapons in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), officials here said Sunday.
The measure came in response to the North Korean military's placement of heavy weapons in the DMZ, a 257-kilometer-long, 4-kilometer-wide buffer zone that has remained since the armistice ending the Korean War was signed in 1953, they said.
The existence of heavy weapons in the DMZ increases the possibility of military conflict between the two sides and weakens the primary purpose of setting up the buffer zone after the 1950-53 war.
According to UNC Regulation 551-4, which outlines and implements responsibilities required to comply with the armistice, the U.S.-led UNC approved the deployment of heavy weapons at the buffer area, including medium and heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles, mortars and automatic grenade launchers. The changes went into effect on Sept. 5, 2014. Only individual arms were originally allowed in the DMZ.
The UNC said in the revised regulation that it made such updates to "take action against weapon systems placed by the North Korean military within the DMZ."
"North Korea has long deployed mortars and large-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns as well as anti-personnel and anti-tank land mines in the DMZ in violation of the armistice agreement. We had to take countermeasures," a South Korean military official said.
The DMZ is the most fortified area in the world with 70 percent of troops from both Koreas stationed nearby. The southern part of the DMZ is under the control of the UNC and North Korea manages the northern part.
The Korean Peninsula has technically remained in a state of war since the 1950-53 war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.