South Korea is in close consultations with the United States and the United Nations to get sanctions exemptions ahead of a planned groundbreaking ceremony in North Korea for a joint project on connecting roads and railways over their border, the unification ministry said Friday.
On Thursday, the two Koreas agreed to hold an event in Panmun Station, just north of the inter-Korean border on Dec. 26 to break ground for the railway and road connecting work.
It is a major project that their leaders promised to pursue in April as part of efforts for balanced economic development and co-prosperity on the divided peninsula. They also agreed in September to hold a groundbreaking ceremony before year’s end.
“With regard to the groundbreaking ceremony and exemptions of sanctions, we are in close consultations with the U.S. and the U.N.,” Lee Eugene, a deputy spokeswoman at the ministry, told reporters during a regular press briefing.
A group of South Korean officials and experts is currently in North Korea to conduct a 10-day on-site survey of railway conditions along the North’s east coast.
Following a monthslong delay amid concerns over possible violation of sanctions, the Seoul government recently received the greenlight from the U.N. to go ahead with the survey. The two Koreas have yet to carry out an inspection of the road in the North’s eastern region.
Observers say that it will be necessary for South Korea to get a sanctions waiver to go ahead with its planned ceremony as it could involve the movement of materials banned under the restrictions.
South Korea and the U.S. are expected to discuss the issue during a “working-group” meeting presumed to be held next week.
The Seoul government earlier said that around 100 people each from the two Koreas will attend the ceremony, though it did not provide detailed information on who will join the event or how the celebration will be organized.
Chances appear to be low that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be present at the event.