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U.N.: North Korea has violated DMZ agreement

The U.N. Command Friday released a photo it said showed North Korean troops in the DMZ with machine guns.
The U.N. Command Friday released a photo it said showed North Korean troops in the DMZ with machine guns.

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- The North Korean army has brought light machine guns into the Demilitarized Zone, the United Nations Command on the Korean Peninsula said Friday -- a violation of agreements signed in 1953 at the end of the Korean War.

A U.N.C. Military Armistice Commission investigation revealed that the North Koreans had brought into the DMZ automatic weapons, the kind that can be operated by crews.

They were observed transporting, setting up and manning Type-73 light machine guns on six days between December 13 and December 20.

North Korea has been observed breaching the Demilitarized Zone from time to time over the years but this incident comes at a particularly sensitive time diplomatically.

The South Korean army spotted the weapons while providing security for workers building the reconnection of the Gyeongui railroad and adjacent highway between the two Koreas.

The South Koreans reported that their northern counterparts set up the weapons from 100 to 400 meters north of the line and removed them at the end of each day.

U.N.C. said that it sent a message December 23 to North Korea requesting a meeting on the issue, to be held December 26, but the North Koreans would not accept the message.

The demarcation line between North and South Korea is known as the 38th parallel.

The line is 2.5 miles wide and 151 miles long.

Nearly 2 million troops guard the line on both sides.

The zone was agreed to in an armistice to the Korean War signed July 27, 1953.

The United Nations command was set up after the June, 1950, North Korean invasion of the South to oversee troops from U.N. member nations that had volunteered to defend South Korea. Sixteen nations -- including the United States -- joined in the fight to repel the North.

The Demilitarized Zone extends 2,000 meters from each side of the Military Demarcation Line, as agreed to in an armistice to the Korean War signed July 27, 1953.

According to U.S. and South Korean officials, two-thirds of North Korea's 1.1-million-member military are currently deployed close to the border with South Korea.

South Korea has a 650,000-member military, assisted by 37,000 U.S. troops. Washington has repeatedly ignored demands by the North that it withdraw its forces from the South.

In his January State of the Union speech, U.S. President George W. Bush called North Korea part of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and Iran.

The U.N.C. report came on the same day that Pyongyang ordered International Atomic Energy Agency monitors to leave the country and began to restart dormant energy plants that the United States says could easily make nuclear weapons.

It also told the IAEA that it will resume operations at its plant for reprocessing spent fuel rods -- a facility capable of making weapons-grade plutonium.

In response, the IAEA said the inspectors were still needed and asked North Korea to reconsider.

An official Chinese newspaper blasted the United States over its stance regarding North Korea's nuclear program.

"This is a hawkish and dangerous warning," the English-language publication said. "It will poison the warming relations between the two sides of the Korean Peninsula."

The editorial went on to say the United States was irritated at having to shift its focus toward North Korea while it planned a war in Iraq.

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