efe-epaSeoul

The United Nations Command on Tuesday gave its nod for developing hiking trails in the heavily fortified border that divides South Korea and North Korea.

The first phase of the development project was approved for the border city of Goseong, in the eastern coast of the divided peninsula, Yonhap news agency reported.

Goseong is one of the three routes near the border with North Korea proposed by the South Korean government in its plan to build "DMZ Peace Trails" along the so-called demilitarized zone.

It is part of a larger project to improve ties between the two Koreas that are technically still at war with each other. The two neighbors have not signed a peace treaty but only an armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

General Robert Adams, who heads the United States-led UNC and military authority in the southern part of the DMZ, approved phase one of the project in Goseong, according to a press statement.

The project, which includes two other trails in Paju (west) and Cheorwon (center), is expected to be launched on a trial basis on Apr.27 to commemorate the first anniversary of the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration during the first summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

This is the first time that the DMZ will be open to the public since the two countries were separated after the end of the Second World War.

The Goseong trail will start at the Unification Observatory and run along the barbed wire fences that mark the DMZ before ending at the Mount Kumgang Observatory.

The South Korean government will fix a cap on the total number of visitors per day so as not to affect military activities as well as for environmental reasons.

Despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone - 250 km (155 miles) long and four kilometers wide - remains one of the most militarized areas of the world.

More than a million mines are believed to be buried along the region that also has some 200 guard posts from both countries.

asb-mra/sc/ssk