Republic of Korean soldiers stand guard next to the rails which leads to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju on Nov 30, 2018. (KIM HONG-JI / POOL / AFP)
SEOUL - The United States agreed Friday on the scheduled inter-Korean groundbreaking ceremony next week to modernize and connect railways and roads across the border, a Republic of Korean official said.
The ROK and the DPRK agreed to hold the ceremony on Dec 26 at Panmun Station in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong
Lee Do-hoon, the ROK's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, made the remarks after holding a working-group meeting in Seoul with his US counterpart Stephen Biegun.
Biegun was on a four-day trip to Seoul from Wednesday. The working group was launched in November between the ROK and the United States to regularly communicate on issues of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Lee told reporters that the groundbreaking ceremony would be held as scheduled through the working-group talks.
The ROK and the DPRK agreed to hold the ceremony on Dec 26 at Panmun Station in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong as part of efforts to enforce the agreement between ROK President Moon Jae-in and DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un.
After their first summit in April at the truce village of Panmunjom, Moon and Kim agreed to modernize and connect railways and roads along the eastern and western Korean Peninsula.
The ceremony itself was not relevant to international sanctions on Pyongyang, but moving equipment and materials for the ceremony to Kaesong would be subject to restrictions.
Lee said that through the working-group meeting, issues were resolved such as providing DPRK people with antiviral medication, Tamiflu, and the joint excavation project of the war remains between the two Koreas.
Biegun said that the US government currently had no intention to ease bilateral and unilateral sanctions on the DPRK
Under the military agreement, the ROK and the DPRK planned to jointly excavate the remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War in the eastern border area inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which has left the Korean Peninsula divided since the three-year war ended with armistice.
For the joint excavation project from April to October next year, ROK's military would be required to bring equipment and materials to the DPRK side that can be subject to international sanctions.
Asked about the ROK's plan to provide US$8 million of humanitarian aid to DPRK people via international organizations, Lee said the United States began to review this issue on the grounds that humanitarian assistance is not subject to UN sanctions.
The ROK special envoy said he and his US counterpart, Biegun, agreed to make joint efforts for the rapid resumption of working-level negotiations between the United States and the DPRK as the current period would be significant for the peninsula's complete denuclearization and peace regime.
Biegun told reporters that the US government was "eager" to move on to the next stage of negotiations with the DPRK, noting that during the process, he would be able to discuss details on the second summit between the DPRK leader and US President Donald Trump.
The US envoy said he had currently no information on a date and venue for the second Kim-Trump summit, adding that he would be working with the DPRK to "arrive in an agreeable outcome" in that regard.
Touching on sanctions on the DPRK, Biegun said humanitarian assistance was not blocked by the UN sanctions, but he noted that the US government currently had no intention to ease bilateral and unilateral sanctions on the DPRK.
Biegun added that his country was ready to review various ways to build trust between Washington and Pyongyang in the context of promises made previously by the two countries.
HONG KONG NEWS