- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The U.S.-led United Nations Command on Tuesday formally approved the opening of a guided hiking trail near the demilitarized zone, which has separated North and South Korea for more than 60 years.

U.S. officials signed off on a trail near the border tone of Goseong. Once the trail is up and running, it’ll mark a key step forward in Seoul’s effort to open portions of the DMZ to the public.

South Korean officials had been lobbying the U.S. to approve the plan, which ultimately could see three trails open in the long-disputed region.

Tuesday’s approval, officials said, came only after Seoul had demonstrated hikers would be safe.

South Korea’s “military has worked extremely long hours to ensure the success of this very important initiative, while assuring visitors their safety remains paramount,” said U.S. Army Gen. Robert Abrams, head of the U.N. Command on the Korean Peninsula.

The trail could open to the public on a trial basis as soon as this weekend, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. The news outlet said that as many as 20 visitors at a time will be taken on a tour that begins at the Unification Observatory, continues along barbed-wire fences separating the DMZ and ends at the Mount Kumgang Observatory.

The U.S.-approved plan could serve as another diplomatic olive branch to Pyongyang. President Trump has pushed for a sweeping denuclearization deal with North Korea, though so far the two sides have been unable to come to a final agreement.

Mr. Trump has held two face-to-face meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Mr. Kim is in Russia this week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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