U.S. Alarmed at Speed of Inter-Korean Railways Project

  • By Kim Jin-myung

    October 17, 2018 12:16

    U.S. officials expressed alarm Tuesday about an inter-Korean agreement reached a day earlier to break ground on a project reconnecting severed cross-border railways and roads in late November or early December.

    "The improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot advance separately from resolving North Korea's nuclear program," the State Department told Radio Free Asia.

    "We expect all member states to fully implement UN sanctions, including sectoral goods banned under UN Security Council resolution, and expect all nations to take their responsibilities seriously to help end [North Korea's] illegal nuclear and missile programs."

    Such sectoral goods could cover supplies needed to reconnect the railroads.

    Officials from the two Koreas check inter-Korean railways in the Joint Security Area on July 24. /Yonhap

    Joshua Stanton, a North Korea sanctions expert, said the re-linking of railways and roads would fall foul of Paragraph 18 of UNSC Resolution 2375 that bans joint ventures with the North. "If it is not approved by the UN Security Council..., then it's a violation of sanctions," he told RFA.

    The U.S. Defense Department declined to comment on individual cases, but Pentagon spokesman Christopher Logan said the U.S.-helmed UN Command which oversees the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas "will ensure compliance with the armistice agreement and its implementation under current circumstances considering the spirits of the inter-Korean and Singapore summits."

    The Asahi Shimbun daily's Seoul bureau chief, Yoshihiro Makino, told RFA that Seoul is being pushed by Pyongyang, which is protesting that inter-Korean economic cooperation would be meaningless if railways and roads were not be re-linked.

    Seoul has warned Pyongyang that the projects would probably violate UN sanctions. But if U.S. President Donald Trump agrees before the end of the year to declare a formal end to the Korean War, there could also be progress in denuclearization and some sanctions could be eased.

    Seoul persuaded Pyongyang that in this situation it would be better to hold only a ground-breaking ceremony this year and start actual work next year, Makino added.

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