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UN Command refuses to permit cross-border railway survey in Korea

In this June 26, 2018 photo, North Korean Vice Railroad Minister Kim Yun Hyok, left, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Vice Transport Minister Kim Jeong-ryeol during a meeting to discuss inter-Korean cooperation on railways inside the Peace House at the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea. (Korea Pool via AP)

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- The United Nations Command has chosen not to permit a joint field survey by North and South Korea that would have involved test-operating a cross-border railway, South Korean media reported Thursday.

The decision by the United Nations Command, which is led by the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, comes amid growing concerns in the United States over a lack of progress in its denuclearization talks with North Korea.

The South Korean government had come up with a plan to conduct a test run from a station in Seoul to the North Korean city of Sinuiju on the border with China via Pyongyang, using a South Korean locomotive and passenger cars, according to media reports.

But the United Nations Command, which has jurisdiction over the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, did not approve the plan after being notified of it, the reports said.

"In coordination with the (South Korean) government, the U.N. Command respectfully declined the Aug. 23 request for government officials to visit...North Korea through Transportation Corridor-West while requesting more fidelity on the details of the proposed visit," the United Nations Command said in a statement on Thursday.

At a historic summit in April between South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two Koreas agreed to take practical steps toward connecting and modernizing railways, including one between Seoul and Sinuiju.

The two countries have since held several meetings on railroad projects.

An official of South Korea's Unification Ministry said the country will continue to communicate and cooperate with related parties, including the United States and North Korea, to move the railroad project forward.

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