Seoul has begun consultations with the United States and others to secure a sanctions exemption needed to allow a joint survey on inter-Korean rail cooperation, a Ministry of Unification (MOU) official said on Thursday.
The comments, made during a closed-door briefing and confirmed separately to NK News, suggest the previously-delayed project will now go ahead, pending approval from the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea.
“With regard to the joint railway study, consultations are underway with the U.S., the United Nations and other relevant countries,” the official said, in comments carried by the Yonhap News Agency.
“The schedules [for the field study] will be determined accordingly.”
They also come a day after U.S. officials were quoted by Seoul as having offered their “strong support” to the project, and come after weeks of tension in the ROK-U.S. alliance over the pace of inter-Korean economic cooperation.
The South Korean government previously admitted to differences with the U.S. over the joint on-site survey, which the two Koreas are set to conduct ahead of connecting railways on the west and east coast of peninsula.
The two Koreas at high-level talks in October originally agreed to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for rail and road connections by late November or early December.
To this end, they were originally scheduled to conduct a joint on-site survey of the Gyeongui and Donghae railway lines late last month – plans that have since been delayed.
Much of the controversy around the plans for the survey hinges on the goods that will need to cross the inter-Korean border before it can go ahead.
Multiple South Korean outlets have reported that the U.S. and South Korea plan to coordinate on the “technical details” of the project – including whether any of the necessary cross-border goods transfers violate sanctions.
UN Security Council Resolution 2397, adopted in December last year, bans all member states from supplying or transferring to the DPRK “all industrial machinery…, transportation vehicles…, and iron, steel, and other metals.”
Seoul was previously granted an exemption by the UN sanctions committee to allow for the renovation of a facility intended for family reunions at the Mount Kumgang resort, as well as the restoration of military communications lines between the two Koreas.
They did not, however, seek an exemption to allow the opening of a joint-run inter-Korean liaison office at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), with Seoul insisting that it was “unnecessary.”
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Featured Image: 5Q7A3781 by nknews_hq on 2017-02-01 16:38:44