South Korea President Moon wants train route to North by end of year
The presidential office said the other partners would include China, Russia, Japan and Mongolia
The South Korean president has called for the creation of road and rail links between his country and North Korea by the end of the year.
Moon Jae-in proposed creating a “Northeast Asian railroad community” between the two Koreas, the United States and four unnamed parties in a speech marking the 73rd anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule on the Korean peninsula. The presidential office later said the other partners would include China, Russia, Japan and Mongolia.
However, the proposition is complicated by international sanctions meant to punish the North for its nuclear programme.
Moon pointed to the early days of the European Union as a model, where the trade and political bloc began as a steel and coal trading community.
He also suggested increased contacts and potential economic cooperation could be a driving force towards denuclearisation.
“Even though a political unification may be a long way from here, establishing peace between the South and the North and freely visiting each other, and forming a joint economic community is true liberation to us,” Moon said according to a translation by Yonhap news.
“This community will lead to an energy bloc and economic bloc in northeast Asia by expanding our economic area to the northern continent and becoming the foundation of coexistence and prosperity in northeast Asia. And this will mark the start to a multilateral security system in northeast Asia.”
But he warned economic cooperation could not be fully realised as long as North Korea maintained its nuclear arsenal.
Moon is expected to travel to Pyongyang by the end of September to hold a third meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
South Korea is increasingly pursuing its own diplomatic efforts with its nuclear-armed neighbour as talks between North Korea and the US have stalled.
Soon after Moon and Kim’s first meeting in April, officials from the two Koreas began exploring how the countries could link their rail systems.
A common joke among young South Koreans has been the most tangible outcome of better relations would be the ability to take a train all the way to Europe.
But Moon’s plan may be complicated by United Nations sanctions designed to limit trade with North Korea.
US officials have said the North has not taken steps to dismantle their nuclear programme and Pyongyang has reportedly rebuffed multiple suggestions to hand over nuclear warheads.
Those sanctions, and others imposed separately by the US, have become increasingly frustrating for North Korea. The country’s state-run media this month has repeatedly called for an end to economic restrictions, calling them “anachronistic” and an obstacle to better relations.