South Korea denies radar lock on Japanese plane as diplomats meet

North Korea, South Korea set to hold groundbreaking ceremony for railway project

Even if the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearization and gains sanctions relief, some experts say updating North Korean rail networks and trains, which creak slowly along the rails that were first built in the early 20th century, could take decades and massive investment.

South and North Korean government officials connect northern and southern railroad tracks during a groundbreaking ceremony at Panmun Station in Kaesong, North Korea, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. The success of the joint rail and road project depends "on the will and determination of our people", said the North Korean Vice-Minister of Railways Kim Yun Hyok in Kaesong.

The groundbreaking ceremony came after the United Nations granted a sanctions exemption for the event regarding materials that were to enter the North.

They agreed in their Pyongyang summit in September to hold the groundbreaking ceremony before the end of this year.

However, the railway will not become a reality if US -led sanctions against North Korea persist.

The Koreas in December 2007 began freight services between South Korea's Munsan Station in Paju and the North's Panmun Station to support operations at a now-shuttered joint factory park in Kaesong.

Moments later, about 10 delegates from both the South and the North lined up along the railway and pulled yellow levers to link up the railway tracks in a symbolic gesture.

The two sides wrapped up their joint railway and road inspections for the projects this month.

To celebrate the linking of the two countries' roads, a signboard was unveiled on which the directions to Seoul and Pyongyang were displayed.

A Unification Ministry official here said that her attendance reflects that Korean Peninsula issues are not confined to Asia, as they require global cooperation on matters related to denuclearization and sanctions.

Progress on bilateral ties is continuing despite a deadlock in denuclearisation negotiations between North Korea and the US.

The attendance of the executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, was a de facto seal of approval from the global community at large, which was reflected on Tuesday when the UN Security Council granted a sanctions waiver for the ceremony.

25 rebutted South Korea's denial that one of its destroyers had locked its targeting radar on a Japanese patrol aircraft, saying Seoul has "misunderstood some of the facts". "Those who haven't experienced it wouldn't understand the joy that comes in returning to one's hometown", Kim told reporters on the train to Kaesong that morning.

"But given the absence of actual construction, the North will keep pressing the South to make it happen despite sanctions, in line with Kim's efforts to shore up his regime", he added.

"I send congratulatory and peaceful greetings for Christmas to South Korean brothers and sisters", he said.

The United States and its allies have called for restrictions to remain in place until North Korea takes clear steps toward giving up its nuclear weapons and missiles.

The leaders of the two Koreas agreed in April to modernize and connect roads and railways across their border, a project aimed at fostering balanced development and co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

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