North Korea holds talks with UN Command and South Korea

North and South Korea have held the first round of three-way peace talks with the US-led United Nations Command. The meeting marks the latest effort to demilitarize one of the world's most heavily armed frontiers.

North and South Korea for first time on Tuesday held talks alongside the United Nations Command (UNC), the US-led military operation that plays a major military role on the southern side of the Korean peninsula.

The two-hour meeting at the border village Panmunjom saw officials discuss ways to further demilitarize the Korean border, one of the most heavily fortified in the world.

"They discussed practical issues regarding demilitarization steps to be conducted in the future," the South Korean ministry said in a statement. This could include removing all firearms from the Joint Security Area (JSA), the only area along the border where troops from both sides, as well as the US, stand face-to-face.

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The number of soldiers stationed within the JSA could also be reduced to just 35 each.

The UNC's General Vincent Brooks said the two Koreas would try to use existing means of managing the 250-kilometer long (155-mile) Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the border to upcoming rounds of peace talks. "I am encouraged by this productive, trilateral dialogue," Brooks said in a statement.

Hopes of peace

Tuesday's talks mark the latest in a series of efforts and mutual gestures aimed at achieving peace on the Korean peninsula. The two countries are technically still at war following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce agreement but never a peace treaty.

However, South Korean President Moon Jae-In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have held three peace summits so far this year, where the pair have agreed to a series of tension-reducing deals. 

This includes pulling 11 guard posts within 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the border by the end of year, as well as removal of some 2 million landmines scattered along the DMZ.

Earlier this week, North and South Korea also agreed to begin reconnecting rail and road links as part of a pilot project to excavate and repatriate the remains soldiers missing from the Korean War.

The entire peace process, however, hinges on whether the North follows through on its pledge to denuclearize.

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dm/aw (Reuters, dpa)