UN allows Koreas to conduct joint excavation project

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Seoul has been allowed to take up a joint project with Pyongyang by the UN Security Council (UNSC), media reports said on Monday.

The development comes amid intense diplomatic efforts by the Koreas and international community to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, which may result in the lifting of UNSC sanctions on North Korea.

The Koreas have been granted sanction exemptions for a joint project to demine northern side of the demilitarized zone, Yonhap news agency reported.

"[The UNSC decision came] as Seoul sought the exemption to ensure that the delivery of equipment into the communist state for the project will not be impeded by anti-Pyongyang sanctions," the news report added.

Pyongyang had sought equipment from Seoul to demine its side last year during inter-Korean general-grade dialogue.

"The project [carried] on Arrowhead Ridge, a notorious battle site of the 1950-53 Cold War conflict, from April to October under last year's bilateral military accord aimed at reducing tensions, preventing accidental clashes and building trust," the news report added.

The excavation project will boost the inter-Korean military accord which includes a series of confidence-building and arms control measures, including disarming the Joint Security Area, withdrawing some border guard posts and setting up air, maritime and ground buffer zones.

The Seoul Defense Ministry is planning to purchase foreign mine-clearing machines, such as the Swiss-made GCS-100, Germany's Minewolf and Croatia's MV-4, and supplying the North with one in the form of a lease, the report said.

It was after Seoul and Washington's video conference "working-group" meeting on Jan. 17 that they reached a decision over the sanctions exemption for the project, the Korean news agency added.

The exemption of the UNSC sanctions comes ahead of the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un set for the "last days of February".

The venue of the second Trump-Kim summit is yet to be decided. The two leaders held a historic first summit last year in Singapore, breaking years of impasse.

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