Two Koreas agree to reconnect road and rail links

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (wearing glasses) and North Korea's Committee for Peaceful Reunification chairman Ri Son Gwon shaking hands prior to their talks in Panmunjom yesterday.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (wearing glasses) and North Korea's Committee for Peaceful Reunification chairman Ri Son Gwon shaking hands prior to their talks in Panmunjom yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL • North and South Korea agreed yesterday to begin reconnecting rail and road links, another step in an improving relationship that has raised US concern about the possible undermining of its bid to press the North to give up its nuclear programme.

The agreement on transport links came during talks in the border village of Panmunjom, aimed at following up on the third summit this year between South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, last month.

"The South and North reached the agreement after sincerely discussing action plans to develop inter-Korea relations to a new, higher stage," said a joint statement released by the South's Unification Ministry.

They agreed to hold ceremonies in late November or early December to inaugurate work on reconnecting the railways and roads that have been cut since the 1950-53 Korean War. The two sides will carry out joint field studies on the transport plans from late this month, the statement said.

They also agreed to discuss late this month a plan to pursue a bid to co-host the 2032 Olympic Games.

The talks were led by the South's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Mr Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification that handles cross-border affairs.

"We are at a very critical moment for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the advancement of inter-Korea relations, and there's also a second North Korea-US summit coming up," Mr Cho told reporters before leaving for Panmunjom.

 
 
 

The rail and road initiative and the joint Olympics bid were agreed by Mr Moon and Mr Kim at their latest summit, in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Talks between the two Koreas are running in parallel with US efforts to press North Korea to give up nuclear weapons and missiles that the North says can hit the US mainland.

Mr Kim held an unprecedented summit with US President Donald Trump in June in Singapore and the two sides are arranging a second meeting. But despite the June meeting, the United States is still pursuing a policy of "maximum pressure" to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes. Mr Trump said last Wednesday that South Korea would not lift sanctions on North Korea without US approval.

Mr Moon yesterday said that world powers needed to reassure Mr Kim that he had taken the right decision to commit to denuclearisation. "We have to reassure Kim Jong Un that he has made the right choice in denuclearising and we need to support his desire for durable and solid peace," Mr Moon told France's Le Figaro ahead of his European tour this week.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2018, with the headline 'Two Koreas agree to reconnect road and rail links'. Print Edition | Subscribe