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North and South Korea agreed on Monday to press ahead with plans to establish road and rail links, pledging to hold a groundbreaking ceremony on the project in late November or early December.
The plan comes despite sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and it is unclear how far or how fast the project can proceed without violating those sanctions, which Seoul has vowed to respect.
It also comes amid some concerns in Washington about the enthusiasm with which South Korean President Moon Jae-in has embraced North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, despite the fact that North Korea has so far taken no concrete steps to disarm.
Plans to establish road and rail links were a key part of the agreement reached between Moon and Kim when they first met at the border village of Panmunjom in April.
The commitment to move ahead on the transport links was announced after high-level talks Monday between the two sides, at which they also agreed to hold a series of discussions on other areas of cooperation in coming weeks.
Talks are planned this month and next about increasing military engagement to reduce the threat of conventional warfare, about a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics and about stepping up contacts between families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Lim Eul-chul, an expert on the North Korean economy at South Korea's Kyungnam University, said the tight timeline for the groundbreaking ceremony reflects Pyongyang’s determination to make rapid progress on talks over denuclearization.
But it also reflects the North’s efforts to have sanctions lifted as soon as possible, a position with which Moon appears to sympathize.
This article first appeared on www.washingtonpost.com
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