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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 09:25 GMT
Koreas begin surveying rail links
South Korean deminer and soldier on the border
The two sides have been mine-clearing for months
North and South Korea have begun land surveys for a cross-border railway across the heavily-fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that has separated the two sides since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The work is the latest evidence that the two sides are still co-operating on the goodwill project, despite an international furore over North Korea's alleged admission that it has a nuclear weapons programme.

Re-linking the Koreas
Donghae (eastern) rail line due next autumn to link with Russia
Parallel road was due by November
Gyeongui (western) rail line due end of this year to link with China
Parallel road due by spring 2003
The two sides began clearing mines from the border in mid-September in preparation for the transportation links.

But the project has been delayed by North Korea's refusal to co-operate in agreed landmine removal verification procedures.

The joint survey which began on Tuesday is aimed at finding the best place to connect the railway and road planned for the east side of the peninsula.

This will conclude on Wednesday, followed by similar procedures along the west coast later in the week, South Korea's unification ministry said.

The two sides will exchange the results of the surveys in early December, South Korean officials said.

The plan is to link the western line to China and the eastern line to Russia, so freight can travel overland to Europe, significantly cutting costs.

Delay

The first of the rail links had been scheduled to be re-connected as early as this month.

But a US army general accused North Korea on Tuesday of delaying the project, by demanding two weeks ago that the US-led United Nations Command (UNC) - which supervises the southern half of the DMZ - hand over control of the transportation corridors to the two Koreas.

South Korea's defence ministry said Pyongyang was refusing to deal with the UNC in arranging mine clearing inspections, arguing that the body had no right to be involved in the project.

Major General James Soligan told cable television YTN that North Korea wanted to retain authority over the transport links so "they could move combat forces into this corridor and challenge the security of South Korea".


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

18 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
13 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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