September 21, 2011 13:35
China will for the first time in 20 years conduct a safety inspection of a steel bridge connecting the North Korean city of Sinuiju with the Chinese city of Dandong across the Apnok (or Yalu) River.
Over 70 percent of all North Korea-China trade goes across the bridge, which is also used by senior North Korean officials crossing into China.
China's state-run Xinhua news agency on Tuesday said preparations for the inspection are underway. Inspections were normally carried out every 10 years, but this time it has taken 20 years.
The inspection will be conducted by the Shenyang Railway Bureau in Liaoning Province and take until the end of the month. The road deck of the bridge, which is riddled with potholes, will be repaired. Cross-border trade will be suspended for the duration, local officials said.
Construction of the 946-m bridge started in 1937, and it has been used for both trains and vehicles since 1943.
Since early this year, North Korea and China have been building a new bridge about 14 km south of the existing one.
"The existing bridge will continue to serve the railway connecting the two countries once the new bridge is completed," a local source said. "The current inspection seems aimed at securing railway safety."
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