Two Koreas agree on train crossing, but just this once

Joong Ang Daily
Brian Lee
5/12/2007

After four days of marathon negotiations, the North’s military gave its blessing for a trial run of an inter-Korean railroad system.

At least once.

South Korea failed to get a permanent security assurance from Pyongyang, fearing that North Korea would try to wrangle concessions every time the train passes the world’s most heavily fortified border.

Most recently, Seoul agreed to give the North $80 million in raw materials for light industry following the test run of the train.

After the long negotiations, several issues were left undecided.

In a joint press release issued yesterday, the two Koreas said, “The two sides share the view that preventing military conflicts and creating a joint fishing zone in the Yellow Sea is an issue to be urgently resolved in the course of easing military tensions and establishing peace.”

The test run of the train is scheduled Thursday.

It would be the first in more than half a century, since an armistice ended the Korean War.

Seoul views the train crossings as a crucial building block to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and draw the reclusive state of North Korea more out into the open.

South Korea has built two rail crossings, one on the country’s east coast and another about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Seoul.

A planned test run in May of last year was cancelled at the last minute. Speculation ran high that the North’s military balked due to its own security worries.

The militaries of the two countries, who are still technically at war, agreed to meet again in July.

The two sides agreed to discuss the issue of establishing a joint fishing zone in the Yellow Sea and look into the possibility of allowing North Korean commercial vessels going to and from the North’s Haeju Port, which is located near the Northern Limit Line that serves as a demarcation line in the Yellow Sea, to directly pass through the border.

The two sides also agreed to try to have defense-minister level talks in the future.

The last and only one took place in September of 2000.

Meanwhile, the Unification Ministry said yesterday that delegations from both sides would meet in Kaesong today to finalize the details of the train test run.

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