North to 'Give Up Duty' On Korean Buffer Zone

SEOUL -- Accusing South Korea of violating the armistice, North Korea said Thursday it will "give up its duty" of controlling the demilitarized zone between the rival nations.

The North Korean Peoples Army accused the South of moving personnel, tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons into the buffer zone and said it would take "legitimate self-defensive steps."

In a statement issued at Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone, the North did not explain what it meant by giving up "its duty" in the 6-kilometer-wide zone stretching across the Korean Peninsula.

"While the DPRK [North Korean] statement is ambiguous in several of its points, the statement is clearly a dangerous step in the DPRK's continuing efforts to dismantle the 1953 Armistice Agreement," the U.S. military command in Seoul said in a statement.

After a meeting of Cabinet ministers dealing with security, South Korea's government said in a statement: "We see it as a North Korean scheme to unilaterally discard the armistice and attempt military provocations. We will never tolerate such attempts."

The North Korean statement said the North would "give up its duty ... concerning the maintenance and control of the military demarcation line and DMZ."

It added that its personnel and vehicles would no longer bear distinctive insignia and markings when entering the joint security area at Panmunjom and the demilitarized zone.

Both U.S. military command and the South Korean Defense Ministry said they were not taking any special military measures because of the North Korean move. Park Yong-ok, a senior Defense Ministry official, said North Korea seemed to be trying to heighten tension along the border to force bilateral talks with Washington that would snub archrival South Korea.

The demilitarized zone was established by the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. A permanent peace treaty has never been signed and the two sides are still technically at war.

South Korean President Kim Young-sam called for constant vigilance against North Korea when he visited the southern boundary of the DMZ earlier Thursday.

?More than 10,000 militant students abandoned a funeral service for a colleague who died during a clash with police and marched through Seoul on Thursday pressing for an apology from President Kim Young-sam, Reuters reported.

Student leaders said 20-year-old law student Roh Soo-sok would not be buried until Kim took responsibility and there had been a full investigation. Riot police fired tear gas from an armored vehicle as they approached the City Hall.