South Korea and the United States are closely coordinating on all inter-Korean exchanges, including an agreed-upon plan to hold a ceremony to break ground for a railway and road reconnection project before year's end, a unification ministry official said Thursday.
"Issues related to inter-Korean exchanges are all being discussed," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity when asked if the allies are discussing the details of a groundbreaking ceremony for the project to re-link roads and railways across the heavily armed border.
|The border gate of rail tracks inside the demilitarized zone is opened for a South Korean train to pass through on Nov. 30, 2018. The train is carrying a delegation that will conduct a joint railway inspection with the North. The 18-day inspection is aimed at modernizing and ultimately reconnecting the rail tracks across the border.(Yonhap)|
The leaders of the two Koreas agreed in September to hold the groundbreaking event this year to start work on modernizing railways and roads across their border. The project is intended to realize balanced economic development and co-prosperity on the divided peninsula.
On Wednesday, the two Koreas completed a joint survey of the North's western rail line, which will be followed by an inspection of its eastern rail system from Saturday to Dec. 17.
Following months of delay over a possible violation of sanctions on the North, the railway inspection can now take place given that the U.S. recently expressed strong support for the survey and the UN Security Council granted a sanctions exemption.
The two Koreas, however, have yet to fix a schedule for an additional road study following one they conducted in August. The Seoul government has said that it is still possible to hold the groundbreaking event as agreed before the end of this year.
"We are making preparations to enforce what was agreed upon," the ministry official said. "Consultations (between South and North Korea) are also under way with regard to the road inspection."
The official said that a new team of officials and experts will cross into the North early on Saturday to begin a 10-day on-site inspection on the railway that runs through eastern North Korea.
They will examine the state of the railway and other relevant systems, such as tunnels and bridges, aboard a South Korean train that will run from Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast to the Tumen River on its northeastern tip.
This will mark the first time for a South Korean train to run on the 800-km-long Kumgang-Tumen line since the peninsula was divided following the 1950-53 Korean War. (Yonhap)