Inter-Korean railway inspection may begin this week

Source: The Korea Times / 27 November 2018

The two Koreas are set to begin a joint inspection of railway tracks in the North soon, after an exemption was made to the United Nations Security Council sanctions.

South Korea is waiting for a response from the North on the date they will begin the inspections, while holding discussions with the United Nations Command (UNC), which is in charge of approving personnel and equipment crossing the military demarcation line (MDL).

The UNC, which earlier disapproved the plan for a South Korean train carrying personnel and supplies to cross the MDL into the North, will likely grant approval this time, as the sanctions issue has been cleared.

The Koreas will then begin their inspection of a train line along the west coast and then another on the east coast. Officials conducting the inspections will be able to work, dine and sleep on the trains. The inspections are expected to take around 20 days.

This would enable the Koreas to hold a ceremony to begin work to connect the rail networks of the South and North within the year, as agreed at the third inter-Korean summit in September.

However, the ceremony will likely be a symbolic event, as actual work on connecting the railways will take time due to sanctions on the North. The exemptions this time were only made to allow the railway inspections to take place.

This is because the easing of sanctions on North Korea depends on the progress it makes on denuclearization.

The Koreas agreed at the first summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April to connect the rail and road networks of the South and North. In a meeting about the train tracks in June, the two sides agreed to begin inspections of train tracks in the North the next month.

However, the plan was postponed for months because of the sanctions issue and lack of approval from the UNC. Exemptions to the sanctions were sought for the railway inspections after South Korea and the U.S. held their first working group meeting on North Korea last week. Carrying oil into the North had been an issue, as UNSC sanctions ban this.