By Mario Ritter
15 October, 2018

North and South Korea held more high-level talks Monday in the demilitarized zone separating the two countries. Both sides agreed to begin a joint project to improve roads and railways to link the two countries.

Some international experts, however, remain cautious about the increase in cooperation between North and South Korea. They say North Korea must make progress toward ending its nuclear weapons program before economic restrictions are eased.

The meeting Monday was part of continuing diplomatic talks. The two Korean leaders called for the continuing talks during a summit in September.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon led the five-member South Korean delegation. Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for Peaceful Reunification, led the North's group.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, on the right, greets his North Korean counterpart Ri Son Gwon.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, on the right, greets his North Korean counterpart Ri Son Gwon.

Officials said the two sides agreed to begin a joint project to modernize and connect railways and roads by the end of the year. They said teams would begin inspecting the transportation links along the Gyeongeui railway line by the middle of October and a line to the east by early November.

Along with infrastructure plans, the sides also reached agreement on humanitarian and cultural issues. They agreed to hold talks with the Red Cross at the Mount Kumgang Resort in North Korea about families separated by the Korean War. They also agreed to discuss issues related to a North Korean art group that would soon be able to perform in the South.

Moon's diplomacy and experts' concerns

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for the international community to reward North Korea's effort to reduce its nuclear program.

But several Korea experts have voiced concerns about some of Moon's proposals. Bruce Klingner is a researcher for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He said, in his opinion, Moon appears to be very willing to provide a "long and growing list of economic benefits and economic promises to North Korea."

Klingner warns that they "could be violations of [United Nations] sanctions or [United States] law."

Klingner added that there is growing concern in the United States about Moon's willingness to improve inter-Korean relations without the required action by North Korea.

Another Korea expert, Bruce Cumings, said North Korea has made progress. Cumings said it is "very significant" that over a year has passed since North Korea stopped testing missiles and nuclear weapons. He said this is important because the North has not reached a point where they have proved "that they can marry a warhead to a missile and carry it across the oceans."

Moon is currently visiting several nations in Europe. He is building support for easing sanctions on North Korea. Moon spoke to the French newspaper Le Figaro about his discussions with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He said the "meetings have convinced me that he has taken the strategic decision" to end his country's nuclear weapons program.

Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill, however, said North Korea has not fully acted on its promises. "I'd like to hear the argument that suggests that they've done something in denuclearization," he said.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Steve Miller wrote this story for VOA News with contributions from Lee Ju-hyun. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

cautious –adj. careful about avoiding danger or risk

summit –n. a meeting between the leaders of groups such as countries or companies

reward –n. money or another kind of payment that is given or received for something that has been done or that is offered for something that might be done

benefits –n. a good or helpful result or effect

sanction –n. measure put in place to cause a country to obey international law, usually by limiting or banning trade

significant –adj. very important

convince –v. to cause someone to believe that something is true

strategic –adj. of or relating to a general plan that is created to reach a goal in war, politics, etc., usually over a long period of time