Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Koreas agree to break ground on inter-Korean railroad

Koreas agree to break ground on inter-Korean railroad

South and North Korea agreed to press ahead with the groundbreaking ceremony to reconnect and modernize railways and roads along the coastlines of both Koreas over the next two months despite questions about the expediency and timing of the ventures amid little tangible steps towards denuclearization.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the discussions will include setting up a joint survey of a North Korean railroad section the Koreas plan to connect with the South.

Despite this week's talks, North Korea has sounded some sour notes, blaming Seoul for delays in implementing agreements and denouncing the United States for insisting that global sanctions must stay in place until Pyongyang gives up its nuclear weapons.

It also comes amid some concerns in Washington about the enthusiasm with which South Korean President Moon Jae-in has embraced North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, despite the fact that North Korea has so far taken no concrete steps to disarm.

The meeting at the border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday lasted about two hours and was led by military officials of the rank of colonel from the two sides and Burke Hamilton, secretary of the UNC Military Armistice Commission, the ministry said.

Despite the meeting between Kim and Trump, Washington is still pursuing a policy of "maximum pressure" to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon and ballistic missiles that Pyongyang says can hit the continental United States.

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North and South Korea will discuss the details for their planned joint bid for the 2032 Olympics later this month to follow up on an ambitious agreement reached between their leaders in September. South Korean media reported last week that the U.S. Treasury Department held conference calls with several banks in Seoul last month warning them not to violate the sanctions.

Reforestation talks will be held on Oct. 22, and health and medical meeting for disease prevention in late October.

Moon has described inter-Korean engagement as crucial to resolving the nuclear standoff and is eager to restart joint economic projects held back by sanctions if the larger nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea begin yielding results.

In the audit, the South Korean ambassador to the US admitted that he had received a complaint from Washington that Seoul was "moving too quickly" in rapprochement with the North, which can not be forced to give up its nuclear weapons if sanctions are undermined. It is located inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which is a heavily fortified zone that has formed the de facto border between the Koreas since the 1950-53 Korean War. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha invited U.S. President Donald Trump's displeasure when she suggested that South Korea could ease some of its own unilateral sanctions against the North.

Trump has encouraged US allies to maintain sanctions and pressure on North Korea until it denuclearizes.

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