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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 04:41 GMT
Two Koreas agree rail timetable
South Korean train leaving for a trial cross-border run in May 2007
North and South Korea carried out a cross-border test-run in May
North and South Korea have agreed a timetable for establishing cargo rail services between their two nations, the first for more than 50 years.

Trains will begin crossing the border on 11 December, connecting South Korea with an industrial zone in the North.

The agreement came after a three-day meeting in Seoul between South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-il.

The talks were the first between prime ministers of the two Koreas since 1992.

They followed a historic summit last month between leaders of the two nations, only the second since the Korean peninsula was partitioned more than five decades ago.

The leaders signed an accord calling for greater peace and economic partnership, and the prime ministers have been using their meeting to implement some of the proposals.

'Expand investment'

There is currently no rail service between North and South Korea. In May, two trains crossed the border in a test-run and South Korea has since been pushing for more regular rail links.

THE TWO KOREAS
Rail links
1910: Korean Peninsula colonised by Japan
1945: Divided into US-backed South and Soviet-backed North
1950-1953: Korean War, no peace deal signed
1987: North Korea bombs a South airliner, killing 115
1990s: South Korea introduces conciliatory Sunshine Policy
2000: Kim Jong-il and Kim Dae-jung hold first leaders' summit
2007: Kim Jong-il and Roh Moo-hyun hold second leaders' summit

Under the deal, cargo trains will run along a 25km (16 mile) section of track linking Munsan in the South with Bongdong in the North.

This would improve access to the Kaesong industrial complex, a joint economic zone on the North Korean side of the border.

South Korea has also agreed to repair roads and railways linking the complex with other parts of North Korea, and to help with the development of a shipping district in the North's port city of Haeju.

"The agreements set the stage for our companies to expand investment in the North and substantially contribute to its economic development," the South Korean prime minister said in a statement.

The two sides also agreed to begin negotiations on setting up a joint fishing zone around a disputed sea border in the first half of next year.

The area has been the scene of serious naval clashes in the past.

The two Koreas have been divided for more than 50 years and remain technically at war, but in recent years ties have improved under Seoul's policy of economic engagement.

Pyongyang's broader international ties also appear to be taking a turn for the better.

In February, North Korea agreed to end its nuclear programme in return for aid. It is currently in the process of disabling its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.



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