(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with launch of meeting, ministry official's comments)
SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea held working-level talks on Thursday to set up a groundbreaking ceremony for their project to modernize North Korean railways and roads and connect them to the South.
President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed at their third summit in Pyongyang in September to hold a ceremony before the end of the year to break ground for the project to reconnect two sets of cross-border railways and roads.
Thursday's meeting took place at the two Koreas' liaison office in the North's border town of Kaesong to work out details of the envisioned ceremony, including when and where to hold it, as well as the possible participants of the event, according to the unification ministry.
"We've outlined our idea and the talks are expected to proceed based on the North's take on the suggestion," a ministry official told reporters.
Four officials from each side -- including Kim Chang-su, a deputy chief of the liaison office from South Korea, and Hwang Chung-song, a senior official at the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the North's state agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs -- took part in the talks, according to the official.
As part of the project, the two sides have been conducting a joint railway inspection since last month to check the condition of the North's railways.
While the railway review is slated to be wrapped up next week, the Koreas have yet to fix a schedule for an additional road study following the one they conducted in August.
They originally planned to finish the inspections before the ceremony, but the official said the event could take place before their completion.
South Korea has also been in discussions with the United States about whether the ceremony would be in violation of sanctions. In that case, a sanctions waiver is required for the ceremony to go ahead. A similar sanctions exemption was granted by the U.N. Security Council for the railway inspection project.
Earlier this month, Moon referred to the envisioned event as a "launch ceremony" in an apparent indication of concerns that the beginning of actual construction for the project could violate sanctions.
"We are closely coordinating with the U.S. (over the ceremony), and preparing to make sure that we cause no concerns to the international community," the official said. "We will be able to say more on the issue depending on the results of today's meeting."
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