South Korea President Moon Jae-in says his government plans to begin a new railroad project with North Korea this year.
However, Moon also said economic cooperation with North Korea is linked to that country’s denuclearization.
Moon made the comments during a speech on Wednesday celebrating the liberation of Korea at the end of World War II. He said the reconnection of railroads and roads is the start of “prosperity” for the two Koreas. He also said work would begin this year.
Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to work toward increased economic cooperation when they met in April. That meeting took place in the village of Panmunjom in demilitarized zone (DMZ) of the inter-Korean border. At the Panmunjom summit, Kim also agreed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The South Korean president helped bring about the historic summit in June between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore. At that meeting, Kim repeated his commitment to denuclearization.
However, since the summit in June, the U.S. and North Korea have not been able to reach agreement on the denuclearization issue. The U.S. insists that North Korea completely disarm its nuclear and missile weapons before it receives any economic concessions.
North Korea wants economic concessions after each step of the denuclearization process.
Currently, international sanctions put on North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic missile tests do not permit a major railway project.
The joint Korean railway project to link South and North Korea with high speed train service is estimated to cost $35 billion. It would provide North Korean industries an overland rail connection to China, Russia and even Europe.
The international sanctions stop 90 percent of all trade with North Korea and most international finance.
President Moon did not explain how he would get past the sanctions to proceed with the railway project.
This week, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris repeated the Trump administration’s position. He said denuclearization must come before the sanctions are eased.
“Sanctions will remain in place,” said Harris during a speech at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul. He added that the North must take strong actions toward denuclearization.
The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that no official meetings are planned between the U.S. and North Korea, but that informal talks continue.
Moon said that improved relations between the two Koreas will aid progress in denuclearization.
Moon also said that renewed economic ties could generate $149 billion for North Korea over 30 years. And joint economic projects, like the Kaesong industrial center which closed in 2016, could bring thousands of jobs to the North.
Moon is to visit Pyongyang in September to hold another summit with Kim.
The South Korean president also said he supported a peace declaration to officially end the Korean War. Fighting stopped in 1953 with an armistice agreement.
South Korean media have said that the U.S., South Korea, China and North Korea may release a peace statement in September. Such as announcement could take place at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City.
North Korea has called for a peace declaration before moving forward with nuclear talks. The U.S., however, wants denuclearization progress first.
I’m Susan Shand.
This story was reported by VOA’s Brian Padden and adapted for Learning English by Susan Shand. It was edited by Mario Ritter.
Words in This Story
prosperity – n. the state of being successful usually by making a lot of money
commitment – n. a promise to do or give something
concession – n. the act of giving up something or doing something in order to reach agreement
sanctions – n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country
ballistic missile - n. a weapon that is shot through the sky over a great distance and then falls to the ground and explodes
armistice – n. an agreement to stop fighting