South and North Korean officials begin inspections to connect railways


South and North Korean officials inspected a section of the railway along the North’s east coast, Friday, as the first measure following an agreement to modernize the North’s railroads and reconnect the lines between the two Koreas.
A South Korean delegation of 15 officials led by a senior transport ministry official went to the North to examine a railroad section between the Mount Geumgang area and the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), eventually to connect the railway with the South. Seven North Korean officials joined the inspection
They inspected Kamho, Samilpo and Mount Geumgang stations and found that the roadbed and tracks were in good condition.
A joint study team also held their first meeting.
Next Tuesday the Koreas will check the railway from the North’s city of Gaeseong to the MDL along the west coast.
Within this month, the Koreas will inspect railways along the east and west coasts in the North, stretching from Mount Geumgang to the Tumen River, and from Gaeseong to Sinuiju, respectively. After completing inspections, the Koreas will draw up plans on construction, traffic and communication systems.
The North’s railway system is known to be dilapidated and is expected to require much work to modernize it.
Because of economic sanctions on North Korea, actual work on modernizing and connecting railroads cannot begin yet. It appears this will take time, because the U.S. has maintained that sanctions will remain until North Korea achieves complete denuclearization.
The denuclearization process remains stalled because Pyongyang has not taken any steps since the June summit in Singapore.
The Koreas are starting with inspections and joint studies in the meantime.
The South and the North agreed at the inter-Korean summit, April 27, to modernize and connect the railroads along the east and west coasts.
Officials drew up plans at a railway meeting last month to implement the agreement.
The South and North have the same stance that cooperation in railways along the coasts according to the Panmunjeom Declaration has a significant meaning in achieving balanced growth and co-prosperity. The same goes for cooperation on roads,” said unification ministry deputy spokeswoman Lee Eugene.
“We plan to proceed without delay on the agreements reached at the inter-Korean railway cooperation meeting, including a joint study.”

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