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(2nd LD) Koreas holding talks on cross-border road connection

All Headlines 11:18 June 28, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES headline, first 2 paras; ADDS more info in 3rd and 11th paras)

SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) -- The two Koreas are holding working-level talks Thursday to discuss plans to connect roads over the border amid a thaw in inter-Korean relations.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. on the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjom, according to the unification ministry. Vice Transport Minister Kim Jeong-ryeol leads South Korea's delegation, and his North Korean counterpart is Pak Ho-yong, vice minister for land and environmental protection.

Their morning session ended after less than 30 minutes. Subsequent meetings will likely follow, a ministry official said.

They are expected to discuss ways to modernize and link cross-border roads as a follow-up to the agreement their leaders reached in a summit on April 27 to expand inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation in diverse areas.

In particular, constructing roads between the North's western border city of Kaesong and Munsan, just south of the inter-Korean border, could also be brought up for discussion. The 19-kilometer route, if completed, would allow vehicles to drive from Seoul all the way to Pyongyang.

The two Koreas pursued the road construction of the section in 2015, but it has been mothballed since early 2016, when the North conducted its fourth nuclear blast test.

Vice Transport Minister Kim Jeong-ryeol leaves for talks on road-related cooperation with North Korea on June 28, 2018. (Yonhap)

Asked whether the Munsan-Kaesong road construction will be on the table, Kim, South Korea's chief delegate, said yes but declined to go into details.

"We will approach the talks earnestly and sincerely," he told reporters before leaving for the meeting. "We will come back with good results."

Infrastructure is expected to play an important role in boosting inter-Korean exchanges going forward. Roads and railways in North Korea are said to be decrepit and require lots of repair work.

Given international sanctions that ban economic cooperation with the North, however, observers said there could be limits to make headway in Thursday's talks, expecting the two sides could agree to conduct a joint study on relevant matters for now.

The meeting is the latest in a flurry of working-level inter-Korean talks following their leaders' historic summit in April at which they agreed to expand cooperation and exchanges in diverse areas.

On Tuesday, the two Koreas held talks to discuss railway-related cooperation and agreed to conduct a joint study on modernizing the northern sections of railways in eastern and western areas of the Korean Peninsula.


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