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The Latest: S. Korea believes North begins demining at DMZ

October 1, 2018

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2018, file photo, South Korea's Defense Minister Song Young-moo, front left, and North Korea's Minister of the People's Armed Forces No Kwang Chol, front right, hold the documents after signing as South Korean President Moon Jae-in, rear left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, rear right, clap at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse in Pyongyang, North Korea. North and South Korea began removing mines at two sites inside their heavily fortified border Monday, Oct. 1, as part of their recent deals to ease decades-long military tensions.(Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The Latest on diplomacy and other moves on the Korean Peninsula (all times local):

5 p.m.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry says it believes North Korea has begun removing land mines from two sites at the rivals’ heavily fortified border.

South Korea earlier Monday sent troops to remove its mines from the sites at the Demilitarized Zone under recent agreements with North Korea aimed at reducing their decades-long military animosity.

The South’s Defense Ministry says it detected North Korean soldiers engaging in what it believes are demining-related work at the two sites. It refused to provide further details.

The sites are at a jointly controlled area in the border village of Panmunjom and another DMZ area where the Koreas plan their first joint searches for soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

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2 p.m.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says recent military agreements will “end all hostile acts at the land, sea and sky between South and North Korea.”

Moon defended the agreements in remarks Monday on South Korea’s 70th Armed Forces Day. He also called for a stronger national defense, saying “peace can continue only when we have power and are confidant of protecting ourselves.”

Critics have worried that Moon’s recent inter-Korean military deals would weaken South Korea’s war readiness because the North’s nuclear program remains largely intact.

South Korea also held a ceremony on Monday marking the recent return of remains of 64 South Korean soldiers missing from the Korean War. The South’s Defense Ministry says the remains were found in North Korea during a 1996-2005 excavation project between the United States and North Korea. Testing done in Hawaii confirmed they belong to South Korean war dead.

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11:30 a.m.

Seoul says South Korea has begun clearing mines from two sites inside the heavily fortified border with North Korea under a package of tension-reduction deal between the rivals.

Seoul’s Defense Ministry says North Korea is expected to do the same on Monday.

Ministry officials say South Korean troops entered the Demilitarized Zone on Monday morning to remove mines around the border village of Panmunjom and another frontline area where they plan their first joint searches with North Korea for soldiers during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Koreas’ militaries agreed on a range of deals aimed at lowering their decades-long military animosities on the sidelines of a summit between their leaders in Pyongyang.

The move comes amid renewed international diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear program.

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