North and South Korea discuss planned railway testing
May 10, 2007
Pacific edition, Thursday, May 10, 2007
PANMUNJOM, Demilitarized Zone ï¿½ North and South Korean military officials met in North Korea on Tuesday to discuss a planned test run of a railway between the two countries later this month.
During the first three hours of the three-day summit, North Korean negotiators asked to tweak the boundary between the two countries that extends into waters off the west coast, according to Col. Mun Seong-muk.
The colonel, team leader of North Korean Policy division for South Koreaï¿½s Ministry of National Defense, spoke briefly to reporters after the meeting.
South Korean officials emphasized that they wanted to focus the agenda on the May 17 railway test, he said.
The two sides agreed during economic talks last month to conduct the rail tests on May 17, but that accord lacked consent from the Northï¿½s military due to the sea border issue, according to news reports.
North Korea doesnï¿½t recognize the current sea border, drawn by the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and has long claimed that it should be farther south.
The waters around the border are rich fishing grounds and boats from the two Koreas routinely jostle for position during the May-June crab-catching season.
In 1999 and 2002, their navies fought deadly skirmishes, killing several sailors and sinking six ships.
The train lines were severed with the outbreak of the Korean War. South and North Korea reconnected two tracks, the Gyeongui Line cutting across the western section of the border and the Donghae Line crossing the eastern side, as a result of a 2000 summit meeting.
The railways have remained untested, however, due to lack of a military guarantee for their safe operation.
The railways could cut transportation costs and delivery times to Europe, according to a Bloomberg news report.