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Two Koreas meet for talks on delayed rail link

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SEOUL, Feb 27: Railway officials from the two Koreas met for talks today in the North aimed at trying to push forward a delayed project to set a rail link across the fortified border, a South Korean official said.

Connecting the South Korean city of Munsan, north of the capital Seoul, and Kaesong in the communist North by rail would represent a big step forward for political and commercial ties between the two countries.

But despite the near completion of the physical set-up, the project remains unfinished and behind schedule, in part because the North's military has yet to give the project the go-ahead.

The reclusive communist state's military supervises the Demilitarised Zone border bisecting the peninsula along with US-led UN forces.

The on-off relations between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war more than half a century after the truce which halted the 1950-53 Korean conflict, have warmed recently despite the North's refusal to return to multilateral talks aimed at ending its nuclear programmes.

Officials from South Korea's transport and unification ministries began talks with North Korean officials in Kaesong, an official at a joint liaison office there said by telephone.

The two-day meeting is to focus on planning for a test run in March and a formal start to operations soon afterwards, South Korea's vice unification minister told reporters on Thursday.

The two Koreas had previously agreed to begin the railway operation by the end of December 2005.

The railway, when completed, is expected to boost the prospects of an industrial project set up in Kaesong where South Korean firms operate factories using cheap North Korean labour.

Reuters

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