The two Koreas agree to reconnect road and rail links

A summit between the leaders of the two Koreas ended today with an agreement to hold a ceremony to rejoin roads and railways by the end of the year.

The move would be a symbolic affirmation of Korean reunification, and a step towards the resumption of economic and social development.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also agreed to resume operations at the Kaesong industrial park "if the right environment is created". This was a joint project set up during a period of detente in 2004 and closed during a period of tension in 2016.

The joint communiqué, released earlier today, said: "The South and the North agreed to explore practical measures aimed at increasing exchange and cooperation and seeking balanced development."

Plans to begin the normalisation of relations will also depend on the attitude of China and the US, and the lifting of UN sanctions against the North. At present, moves towards economic cooperation would risk contravening the sanctions regime, which the North has described as a "complete economic blockade".

The Korea Herald notes that the railway project is subject to review by the UN’s subcommittee on North Korea sanctions. The fate of the Kaesong industrial park also remains unclear as sanctions prohibit the transfer of cash to North Korea and ban joint ventures with any North Korean entity.

The US is likely to oppose relaxing economic pressure on the North until it carries out complete denuclearisation. However, this may be a step closer after the North agreed, during the summit, to dismantle its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex – albeit dependent on "reciprocal measures" from the US – and close its Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch facility.

Image: Getting together: Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in (Handout via Reuters)

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