DMZ: The No-Man's Land Where Trump and Kim Will Shake Hands Today
The Demilitarized Zone is based on the positions held at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, where South Korean forces backed by a US-led UN coalition fought to a standstill with North Korean and Chinese troops.
South Korean soldiers stand guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
Seoul: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un could shake hands in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula on Sunday if the North's leader takes up the US president's surprise offer to meet.
Trump was to visit the DMZ, widely referred to as the world's last remaining Cold War frontier, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a day after extending his invitation to Kim on Twitter.
Here are some questions and answers about the Demilitarized Zone, which is based on the positions held at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, where South Korean forces backed by a US-led UN coalition fought to a standstill with North Korean and Chinese troops.
Where is it?
The four-kilometre-wide DMZ runs for 250 kilometres (160 miles) across the Korean peninsula, around 50 kilometres north of Seoul and 200 kilometres south of Pyongyang.
At its centre is the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), where the front line lay when the ceasefire stopping Korean War hostilities was signed in 1953.
Under the agreement both sides agreed to pull back their forces 2,000 metres. To the south, Seoul has established a further buffer zone of varying width where civilian access is restricted.
What is it?
A barrier separating North and South, heavy weaponry is banned from within the DMZ. Patrols are allowed but cannot cross the MDL and no more than 1,000 people from each side are permitted inside the zone at any one time. It is also littered with minefields.
The areas immediately outside it are some of the most highly fortified places on earth, bristling with artillery, military camps, and more minefields.
What does it look like?
With the DMZ a "no man's land" and minimal human presence for more than half a century, much of the zone itself is lush forest, renowned as an ecological refuge for rare species of flora and fauna whose habitat elsewhere has been destroyed by development.
An Asiatic black bear was photographed there last October, according to Seoul's environmental ministry.
Within the zone, watchtowers poke up from hilltops, and barbed-wire fences line its edges.
Who has been there?
The US and South Korea have been in a security alliance for decades and a trip to the DMZ is something of a ritual for visiting US leaders.
Then president George W. Bush went in February 2002, a month after he named North Korea as part of his "axis of evil".
The last to go was Barack Obama in 2012, and US Vice President Mike Pence went to the border in April 2017 amid heightened tensions with the reclusive state.
President Donald Trump tried to visit seven months later but his helicopter was forced to turn back due to heavy fog.
Most notably, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held two of their three summits last year at Panmunjom, a "truce village" within the DMZ.
What is Panmunjom?
Also known as the Joint Security Area (JSA), Panmunjom is a series of buildings centred on several blue UN meeting huts right on the MDL, which have become emblematic for the division of the Koreas.
The 1953 armistice was signed in a building on the northern side, and the JSA was the site of the 1976 "Axe Murder Incident", when two US military officials seeking to cut down a tree that obscured visibility were hacked to death by North Korean soldiers.
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