South Korean Moon Jae-in yesterday called for the creation of road and rail links between his nation and North Korea by the end of the year.
Moon proposed creating a “northeast Asian railroad community” between the two Koreas, the US and four unnamed parties, in a speech marking the 73rd anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula.
The Blue House later said the other partners would include China, Russia, Japan and Mongolia.
However, the proposition is complicated by international sanctions meant to punish the North for its nuclear program.
Moon pointed to the early days of the EU as a model, when the trade and political bloc began as a steel and coal-trading community.
He also said that increased contacts and potential economic cooperation could be a driving force toward denuclearization.
“Even though a political unification may be a long way from here, establishing peace between the South and the North and freely visiting each other, and forming a joint economic community is true liberation to us,” Moon said according to a translation by the South’s Yonhap news agency.
“This community will lead to an energy bloc and economic bloc in northeast Asia by expanding our economic area to the northern continent and becoming the foundation of coexistence and prosperity in northeast Asia,” he said. “This will mark the start to a multilateral security system in northeast Asia.”
However, he added that economic cooperation could not be fully realized as long as North Korea maintained its nuclear arsenal.
Moon is expected to travel to Pyongyang by the end of next month to hold a third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
South Korea is increasingly pursuing its own diplomatic efforts with its neighbor as talks between the North Korea and the US have stalled.
Shortly after Moon and Kim’s first meeting in April, officials from the two Koreas began exploring how the nations could link their rail systems.
A common joke among young South Koreans has been that the most tangible outcome of better relations would be the ability to take a train all the way to Europe.
However, Moon’s plan might be complicated by UN sanctions designed to limit trade with North Korea. US officials have said that the North has not taken steps to dismantle its nuclear program and Pyongyang has reportedly rebuffed multiple suggestions to hand over nuclear warheads.
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