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Signs detected of N. Korea demolishing part of Donghae inter-Korean railway: NIS

June 5, 2024 - 10:05 By Yonhap
Officials from South and North Korea unveil a road sign during the ceremony for a project to modernize and connect roads and railways over the border between the Koreas at Panmun Station on December 26, 2018 in Kaesong, North Korea. (Getty images)

South Korea's spy agency said Wednesday it has detected signs that North Korea has recently been demolishing some sections on the northern side of the inter-Korean railway on the east coast in an apparent move to erase the legacy of inter-Korean exchange and cooperation.

South and North Korea agreed to restore two railways -- the Gyeongui and Donghae -- in 2000, when the divided countries held the first summit of their leaders. The Donghae railway linked eastern coastal cities across the heavily fortified border.

North Korea has been focusing on erasing unification references since its leader Kim Jong-un defined inter-Korean ties as those "between two states hostile to each other" at a year-end party meeting.

"As there have been recently signs that some parts of the track of the Donghae railway are being demolished, we are monitoring the situation," the National Intelligence Service said.

The North has been detected removing a railway sleeper on the northern side of the Donghae line, local newspaper Donga Ilbo reported, citing a Seoul government source.

For the Donghae railway, the track passing through the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas was built in 2006, linking a some 27-kilometer section along the east coast. But it has not been operated, except in the pilot operation in 2007.

Former liberal President Moon Jae-in and Kim agreed to connect and modernize the two railways during the summit at the truce village of Panmunjom in April 2018.

But the project effectively fell through since the 2019 no-deal Hanoi summit between then US President Donald Trump and Kim.

In recent months, North Korea has been installing mines and removing street lights along its side of two rare roads connecting the two Koreas -- the Gyeongui and Donghae land routes -- in an apparent bid to completely shut down the routes once regarded as symbols of inter-Korean cooperation and exchange.

Seoul's unification ministry said last week that North Korea may announce "visible" measures to disconnect the Gyeongui route, after it holds a key parliamentary meeting to revise the constitution and clarify territorial boundaries, including the maritime border.

South Korea fully suspended the 2018 inter-Korean military tension reduction agreement Tuesday in response to North Korea's latest trash-carrying balloon campaign and jamming of GPS signals last week.

Seoul said it will restore all military activities near the Military Demarcation Line and on its northwestern border islands, such as artillery drills and field training. (Yonhap)