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Outcome of joint inspections on N. Korea's roads, railways to come out early next year: official

North Korea 13:58 December 27, 2018

SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will push to draw up an overall timetable on how to modernize and connect roads and railways over the border with North Korea after the outcome of joint inspections come out early next year, a unification ministry official said Thursday.

The two Koreas held a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday at the North's border town of Kaesong to mark the symbolic launch of the inter-Korean project that their leaders agreed to in April to foster balanced development and co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

"It will take some time (before drawing up a road map) since South and North Korea need to have discussions based on the result of their (recent) joint inspections," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"The outcome of the joint inspections is expected to come out early next year, and the overall timetable will likely shape up based on that," he added. "You can say that (the outcome) will be (unveiled) in January or February."

Since the April agreement, the two Koreas have pushed to conduct joint on-site inspections of the railways and roads across their borders in their western and eastern regions. They recently completed an 18-day railway inspection in the North.

The unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs earlier said that it needs to carry out additional inspections and draw up blueprints and designs going forward, adding that such efforts should be pursued in line with progress in the denuclearization of North Korea.

Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee, who attended the Wednesday event, told reporters that it could take one to two years to complete necessary designs before actual construction starts.

The North's railway and road systems are known to be so decrepit that experts say they would require major maintenance or even replacement to connect them to those in South Korea.

Any move to invest in North Korea for such infrastructure overhaul requires the easing or lifting of multilayered sanctions on it, which is closely related to how much progress will be made in denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.


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