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Seoul stresses inter-Korean railway project is noncommercial

All News 14:36 December 18, 2019

SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry on Wednesday highlighted the noncommercial nature of an inter-Korean project to modernize and reconnect railways and roads over the border, as China and Russia push to lift some U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

China and Russia proposed a draft resolution on Monday to give North Korea some sanctions relief, including an exemption for the inter-Korean rail and road project from the restrictions, according to Reuters.

Asked to comment on the proposal, ministry spokesperson Lee Sang-min said the two Koreas can push ahead with the construction once they receive approval from the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee.

"The inter-Korean railway connection project is ... a noncommercial public infrastructure project," he told a regular press briefing, adding that items used for such projects do not require sanctions waivers individually.

The modernization and connection of the roads and railways across the inter-Korean border is one of the summit agreements reached by their leaders in April last year aimed at fostering balanced development and co-prosperity.

South and North Korea carried out joint inspections of the North's railways and roads last year, but the project made no progress after a mere symbolic groundbreaking ceremony amid concerns over possible violations of sanctions against Pyongyang.

China and Russia's proposal came amid heightened tensions on the peninsula, with the North hinting at a possible launch of a long-range missile in the near future.

U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun urged Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table during his visit to Seoul this week, but he left South Korea on Tuesday with his call for talks unanswered.

In this file photo taken on Dec. 26, 2018, a special train carrying a South Korean delegation heads to the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where the groundbreaking ceremony for a project to modernize and connect cross-border railways and roads was to be held. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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