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S.Korea suggests setting up Northeast Asian railroad community with Russia’s participation

MOSCOW, August 15. /TASS/. South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday suggested setting up the seven-nation railway community of Northeast Asian countries, with the participation of Russia, the United States and other countries, the Yonhap news agency reported.

In a speech to mark the 73rd anniversary of Korea's independence from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule at the end of the World War II, the president proposed the two Koreas, together with the United States and four other Asian countries, form what he called a "Northeast Asian railroad community."

"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 co-existence and prosperity in Northeast Asia," the president said.

Although the president did not mention the four regional countries by name, presidential office later explained those were China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia.

After the June 22 Moscow meeting between Moon Jae-in and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two states signed a memorandum between Russian rail monopoly RZD and Korea’s Korail company. In the document, the sides express their readiness to ponder on creating a rail link uniting South Korea, Russia and Europe. It also includes a three-party project to link the trans-Korean rail and Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway Network. According to preliminary estimates by RZD, the project with the participation of the two Koreas and Russia may cost about $3-4 billion.

In his speech, Moon also expressed hope that North and South Korean railways and motorways would be linked by the end of the year. The agreement to modernize and connect North and South Korean railways was reached during the April 27 inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom.

"The development of South-North Korean relations is not an additional outcome of development in North Korea-U.S. ties. Rather, the development of South-North Korean relations is the driving force that promotes denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Moon said.

To this end, South Korea will seek to physically connect its roads and railways with those of North Korea before the year's end, the president added.