North Korean diplomats talking to South Korean officials in the demilitarized border zone between the two countries reportedly offered to remove their long-range artillery guns, which have been a dagger pointed at Seoul’s throat for decades.

Before conducting nuclear weapons tests, before even building facilities create fissile material, North Korea established a strong deterrent against South Korea and the U.S. — artillery.

North Korea is estimated to have thousands massive artillery guns hidden in hardened shelters among the hills and mountains of the country’s rugged terrain. These batteries turn any war scenario between North and South Korea into a nightmare where Seoul could lose tens of thousands of lives every hour.

Accounts in South Korean media differ over who exactly proposed the measure, but it came at a general level military dialogue, which hadn’t happened for over a decade before.

north korea long range artillery drillKCNA
North Korea holds a massive artillery drill.

The two nations, still technically at war, met under the banner of “practically eliminate the danger of war,” as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to do on April 27 during their historic first summit.

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North Korea’s artillery guns have little to do with its nuclear weapons program, the elimination of which is the stated purpose of all recent North Korean diplomacy.

But the guns represent a substantial part of North Korea’s threat to Seoul. Without the guns in place, it’s likely the U.S. or South Korea would have staged an invasion in place at some point during the decades-long military standoff.

Precisely because the artillery is so formidable, expect to see North Korea ask for something in return. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in U.S. forces in South Korea — a longstanding goal in Pyongyang. Roughly 28,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent measure.

Experts assess that any steps made to wither the U.S.-South Korean alliance could precipitate the decline of the US as a power in Asia, and then the world.

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