SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- US soldiers have stopped
patrolling the sealed inter-Korean border as part of arrangements to give South
Korea a greater role in defending itself, the US military in South Korea said
The action, which went into effect
at midnight last Sunday, means there are no US soldiers patrolling the
248-kilometer-long and 4-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone (DMZ), the buffer
area between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK),
except for a handful of administrative US personnel at theborder village of
"As previously agreed, transferring the role of the
security work at Panmunjom has been completed," said Kim Yong-kyu, a spokesman
for the US Forces Korea (USFK) command in Seoul.
Handing over the patrolling duties at Panmunjom and
nearby DMZ is a key part of a South Korea-US agreement aimed at giving the host
nation more responsibilities for defending its border with the DPRK.
Panmunjom, also known as the Joint Security Area, is
a small oval-shaped enclave sitting on the western sector of the inter-Korean
border. The Armistice Treaty which ended the Korean War (1950-1953) was signed
The latest action slashed the number of US troops
manning Panmunjom from 220 to fewer than 40, Kim said. A total of 550 troops,
including 330 from South Korea, had been posted at the village.
As part of last Sunday's measures, the US military
relinquishedits only guard post along the land border, called Outpost Ouellette,
turning it over to the South Korean side, Kim said.
Ouellette is only 25 meters from the Military
Demarcation Line and a few hundred meters away from Panmunjom.
The decision came as the US military is realigning
its militarypresence in South Korea and other parts of the world. Washington has
already decided to withdraw one third of its 37,500 troops outof South Korea by
Earlier this year 3,600 US troops were transferred to
Iraq for a one-year mission there. They will not return after the mission.