Koreas begin inspections of North’s railroads

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Koreas begin inspections of North’s railroads

The two Koreas plan to hold a joint inspection of North Korean railroads near the east coast today as part of efforts to connect them with South Korean tracks and boost cross-border economic exchange, a follow-up to agreements made at an inter-Korean meeting last month at the border village of Panmunjom.

The South’s Ministry of Unification, which handles relations with the North, said in a statement on Thursday that a director-general official at the Railway Bureau in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport would lead 14 others to North Korea today for the initiative.

Among the group, nine will take part in the joint inspection, and six will attend a meeting with North Korean officials in a joint study of rail development. The meeting will be held after the inspection.

After inspections on North Korean railroads near the east coast wrap up today, inspections of North Korean tracks near the west coast will take place next Tuesday, the Unification Ministry said.

The schedule was decided after the South Korean government made an initial proposal on July 2 and the North responded Thursday, the ministry said. A local official had said Wednesday that the North wasn’t answering calls from Seoul about agreements made in recent high-level and working-level meetings between the two countries, without explaining why.

Both Koreas held a meeting on rail infrastructure cooperation on June 26 and agreed to connect both countries’ tracks in pursuit of “balanced development and co-prosperity.”

On Thursday, South Korea’s presidential commission for implementing the Panmunjom Declaration, signed by the two Koreas’ leaders on April 27 during their first summit, held their third meeting at the Blue House to review the progress so far.

In Washington on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said North Korea’s denuclearization might “take some time” but added that “all of this will be taking place against the backdrop of continued enforcement of the existing sanctions.”

On the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, Pompeo said that the first remains will likely be returned in the “next couple of weeks,” as progress was being made on the issue with Pyongyang.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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