SEOUL, Dec 26 - The two Koreas held a ceremony on Wednesday for a project to reconnect rail and road links, although construction can not begin while sanctions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs remain in place, officials said.
The success of the joint rail and road project depends "on the will and determination of our people", said the North Korean Vice-Minister of Railways Kim Yun Hyok in Kaesong.
Since then, the Koreas devoted much attention into conducting joint inspections of North Korea's railways, which covered a total of 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles) along the North's western and eastern coasts and took 18 days.
Cheon said that was the ultimate goal of the 1991 joint North and South Korean declaration, but Pyongyang ignored the statement and continued to develop its programs, all the while telling Seoul and Washington they were abandoning them.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would likely reaffirm his commitment to moving forward denuclearization talks with Washington but would also call on it to take corresponding measures in his New Year's speech, experts say.
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The message of the upcoming New Year's speech is garnering attention because North Korea has neither given any specific response to recent conciliatory gestures by the U.S. nor engaged it in working-level and senior-level talks to hammer out the details of how denuclearization should proceed.
A nine-car South Korean train carrying about 100 people - including government officials, lawmakers and aging relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War - rolled into Kaesong's Panmun Station.
Kim also met with US President Donald Trump in a historic summit in June but progress has stalled with both sides accusing each other of dragging their feet and acting in bad faith.
Pyongyang has expressed anguish at Washington's insistence that sanctions remain until the North takes concrete steps to give up its nuclear arsenal.
"We plan to hold detailed negotiations with the North to coordinate on the specific levels we want to achieve in the modernization of railways and roads and how to carry out the project", said Eugene Lee, the ministry's spokeswoman.
"On Friday, Japan's defence minister said a South Korean destroyer had locked its targeting radar on a Japanese patrol plane, calling the action extremely risky".
Even without the sanctions, the existing infrastructure in the North needs to be updated before it can handle railway traffic from South Korea.
A former South Korean unification minister noted that Wednesday marked the third time officials broke ground on railroad projects, following similar ceremonies in 2000 and 2002. The South used the trains to move construction materials north, while clothing and shoes made at the factory park were sent south. The line was cut in November 2008 due to tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.