South Korean officials have traveled to North Korea on Wednesday by train to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for an ambitious project to modernize North Korean railways and roads to connect them with the South, across their heavily armed border.
A nine-car special train carrying some 100 South Korean officials, including the transport and unification ministers, made the two-hour train journey to attend the ceremony at Panmun station in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.
“The groundbreaking ceremony is meaningful in that it demonstrates the Koreas’ willingness to actively cooperate on the modernisation and connection project of their railways and roads,” the South Korean transport ministry said in a statement carried by Yonhap news agency.
Senior transport officials from Russia, China and Mongolia attended the groundbreaking, which could one day lead to a direct connection between the Korean peninsula and Europe via the Trans Siberian Railway.
However, Construction on ambitious project cannot begin without progress in nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the US.
Kim made a vaguely worded commitment to denuclearise during his summit with Donald Trump in Singapore in June, but the countries have not held follow-up talks for several months.
No date has been set for the start of construction work on the joint rail and road projects, with South Korea’s unification ministry stressing that the ceremony was an “expression of a commitment” and that the project’s success would depend on the North making progress on denuclearisation.
Trump said on Monday that he was “looking forward” to his second summit with Kim, which Washington says may take place early next year.
He tweeted the statement after he was briefed by Stephen Biegun, the US special representative on North Korea, who wrapped up a three-day trip to Seoul on Saturday.
The Trump administration has generally refused to let US aid groups operate in North Korea, seeking to both maximise pressure on Pyongyang and ensure the safety of Americans.