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Korea To Survey Railways That Were Cut During The Korean War

The projects are among many agreements reached between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

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Korea, Railways
A South Korean train transporting South Korean officials runs on rails that lead to North Korea inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea. VOA

A South Korean train entered to North Korea on Friday as the two countries began inspecting northern railways tracks they hope to relink with the south.

About 30 officials from each side will participate in an 18-day joint survey of railways tracks cut since the Korean War.

“We will maintain close consultation with related nations so that the project to connect the South and North’s railways could proceed with international support,” South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said during a ceremony at Dorasan Station near the border.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae. VOA

The Koreas, however, cannot proceed much further with the project without the removal of U.S.-led sanctions against the North.The U.S. has said the sanctions will remain until North Korea takes convincing measures toward full denuclearization.

The UN Security Council granted exemptions to sanctions last week, allowing the implementation of the cross-border infrastructure project.

Also on Friday, the North and South militaries completed removing 20 front-line guard posts and land mines from a border area where they plan to start their first-ever joint search for remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, according to an official from Seoul’s Defense Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Also Read: North Korea Open To Nuclear Site Inspection: Report

The projects are among many agreements reached between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their three meetings this year, as part of a diplomatic initiative that eased tensions over the North’s nuclear program. (VOA)

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Hanoi Summit Can Progress North Korea’s Objectives

North Korea was able to establish this framework with the United States that it is more urgent to establish the confidence-building relationship between these two countries and then we can start nuclear dismantlement.

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North Korea
U.S and North Korean flags are on sale at a flag shop in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 29, 2019. VOA

With the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un one week away, final preparations are underway in Vietnam for the February 27-28 talks in Hanoi. It remains unclear what the outcome between the two leaders will yield, but former North Korean Deputy Ambassador to Britain, Thae Yong Ho, told reporters Tuesday that Pyongyang’s long term goal was to remove the U.S. and United Nations presence from the Korean peninsula.

During Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech, he said Pyongyang called for a “staged approach” for the creation of a “peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula, said Thae.

He explained that Kim suggested a buffer zone be created that would reduce the possibility of military conflict between the two Koreas and for it to be gradually expanded from the border between the two Koreas throughout the whole peninsula as one way of achieving peace.

Thae said if President Trump issues an end of war declaration at the Hanoi summit, which many analysts say is possible, then North Korea could assert there is no reason for the U.N. Command to remain on the peninsula, because the “reason for the U.N. Command is to prevent any possible military confrontations between the two Koreas.”

Speaking at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul last week, Bruce Bennett, senior defense researcher at the RAND Corporation, also identified possible long-term objectives for Kim Jong Un.

“I think he wants to see U.S. disengagement from the peninsula, I think he wants to be in a position where he can put significant pressure on South Korea, and I think he needs to solidify his internal support,” said Bennett.

Regardless of the analysis by intelligence agencies and experts, Bennett said Kim’s objectives are not governed by what “we” think is possible for North Korea to achieve.

“What matters for him (Kim Jong Un), that’s what he thinks he can accomplish, because that’s going to drive those actions,” said Bennett.

Denuclearization

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday, President Trump expects “a lot of things will come out” of the second summit with Kim Jong Un.

He called the upcoming meeting “very exciting,” but said Washington’s ultimate goal is North Korea’s denuclearization.

“I think we will see that ultimately. I have no pressing time schedule,” the president said, adding, “As long as there’s no testing, I’m in no rush. If there’s testing, that’s another deal.”

North Korea
Instead, the former diplomat suggested that North Korea’s rhetoric was aimed at Washington’s role of establishing a deterrent for conflict in the region and that President Trump “fell into his trap.” Pixabay

During President Trump’s State of the Union address, he claimed, “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea with potentially millions of people killed.”

However, on Tuesday, he said the relationship was “far less dangerous and there’s a lot of sanity, a lot of really sane thinking.”

But Thae said there never really was a threat of war to the United States posed by North Korea.

Instead, the former diplomat suggested that North Korea’s rhetoric was aimed at Washington’s role of establishing a deterrent for conflict in the region and that President Trump “fell into his trap.”

“The fact that President Trump spoke at the General Assembly of the United Nations and proclaimed that there is a real possibility of a war, [was] a major strategic mistake,” said Thae.

He went on further to say the belief that the United States and North Korea were on a nuclear “collision course” was a result of North Korean manipulation.

Thae stated Kim Jong Un had successfully shifted the focus on North Korea to the strengthening of relations and establishing peace for nuclear disarmament.

“North Korea was able to establish this framework with the United States that it is more urgent to establish the confidence-building relationship between these two countries and then we can start nuclear dismantlement,” he said.

Bennett was unsure Kim would agree to fully abandon his nuclear weapons program, even if an end of war declaration is made.

If President Trump makes the declaration, Bennett said, “It’s got to end the broader war and lead to a real condition of peace as opposed to the appearance of peace.”

U.S.
Moon said South Korea was “determined to take up that role if President Trump asks, if that’s the way to lessen the U.S. burden,” according to Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom. (Pixabay)

Hanoi preparations

The State Department announced Tuesday that U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, was en route to Hanoi in preparation for the summit.

“A lot of things are being discussed and we are very much looking forward to next week,” said deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino.

Kim Hyok-chol, Biegun’s North Korean counterpart, was also spotted in Beijing Tuesday, and it has been assumed he would be traveling to Vietnam as well.

In a phone call with President Trump Tuesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke about the upcoming second U.S.-North Korea summit.

A statement from South Korea’s presidential office said Moon offered his country’s assistance to President Trump as a “concession” to Pyongyang in order to expedite North Korea’s denuclearization.

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That could include anything from reconnecting rail and road links between the two Koreas to other inter-Korean economic cooperation.

Moon said South Korea was “determined to take up that role if President Trump asks, if that’s the way to lessen the U.S. burden,” according to Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom. (VOA)