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☞ Issue 95
글씨크기 크게 글씨크기 작게 기사 메일전송 기사 출력
Inter-Korean military talks focus on train service

N. Korea wants an increase in freight shipments, two Koreas to meet for more talks later this month

관리자 (2008/01/27 19:25)  

During the first inter-Korean military talks of the new year held on January 25, North Korean delegates reportedly insisted that the operation of freight trains on the Munsan-Bongdong line be reduced unless there are improvements, and say that freight transportation is not being conducted properly due to an absence of cargo.

The two Koreas decided to resume freight train service at the second inter-Korean summit in October 2007, under an eight-point agreement on economic cooperccation and development between the two countries. Freight trains operate once a day, transporting goods produced in the Gaeseong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex from Bongdong Station in the North to Munsan Station in the South.

At the military talks, held at the House of Peace in the southern part of the truce village of Panmunjeom, Park Rim-soo, chief of the North Korean delegation, said, “Even though military security was guaranteed in accordance with the spirit of the summit agreement reached by the leaders of the two Koreas, freight trains are running without goods,” according to an official from Seoul.

The official reported that Park complained about the service, saying, “Because of this, even if North Korean workers have nothing to do, they are still commuting every day.”

In response, a representative from South Korea was quoted by the official as saying, “It would be desirable to continue operating the freight trains regularly in order to stabilize the railway or expand the logistics base. If the second phase of the project to develop Gaeseong Industrial Complex starts, the problem of insufficient cargo will be solved,” adding, “It would be more appropriate to discuss freight transportation details and the train operation system as part of the South-North subcommittee on railway cooperation, rather than at the military talks.”

North Korea then suggested that the first meeting of the subcommittee, which the North had previously postponed, be held at the office of economic cooperation in Gaeseong on January 29-30. Seoul’s Ministry of Unification agreed.

As this round of military talks was focused on the matter of freight train operations, there was no discussion on the possibility of holding a generals’ meeting on the creation of a joint fishing zone in the West Sea or holding regular meetings of an inter-Korean military committee, according to an official from the South Korean National Defense Ministry.

Establishing a joint fishing zone in the West Sea was also one of the agreements reached at the inter-Korean summit in October. Ministers from North and South held subsequent meetings on the issue in late November and mid-December, but failed to make progress due to continued disagreement about the area the zone would encompass. The biggest point of contention seems to be where to place the boundaries of the zone in relation to the Northern Limit Line, the maritime border between the two countries that is an extension of the land border drawn when an armistice was signed to end the 1950-53 Korean War. The creation of the zone, and the idea of initiating regular meetings between the defense ministers, was agreed to as a way to diffuse tensions between the two Koreas.

Inter-Korean cooperation began to increase with the historic summit in October and progress in a six-party forum addressing the denuclearization of North Korea. However there has been a recent slowdown in both areas due to disagreements in the six-party process over a list of nuclear weapons programs to be provided by North Korea and anxiety about the state of inter-Korean relations following the election of Lee Myung-bak, who is set to take office on February 25.
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