DATE=9/18/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=KOREAS/RAILWAY UPDATE (L) NUMBER=2-266709 BYLINE=AMY BICKERS DATELINE=TOKYO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has inaugurated work on a railway link with North Korea - the first such project in decades. As VOA's Amy Bickers reports, the president says that he hopes the new transport link will facilitate a new era of reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas. TEXT: South Korean President Kim Dae-jung says rebuilding the train line - to connect the Korean capitals - represents a new milestone in the peace process. Presiding at a groundbreaking ceremony in Imjingak, Mr. Kim said the two Koreas are beginning the work of merging their divided country into one - a long-term goal established at June's historic inter-Korean summit. But no North Korean officials attended, and South Korea's opposition leader boycotted the event in protest of what he says is North Korea's failure to reduce military tensions on the peninsula. Nevertheless, President Kim says reconnecting the rail line sends a message to the world that the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula has ended and that peace has set in. South Korea will rebuild 12 kilometers of track and construct a four-lane highway to run beside it. It will cost 50 million dollars and take one year to complete. Among the most challenging tasks will the clearing of mines inside the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. North Korea says it expects to begin work soon on the eight kilometers of track on its side of the frontier. But the two governments have yet to agree on how to run and operate the train line, especially at the border - one of the most heavily armed in the world. Defense ministers from the two countries are expected to discuss these issues when they meet for the first time at the end of the month. When finished, the Seoul-Pyongyang train line will connect the two Koreas and extend up to the border between North Korean and China. It could become part of an international railway providing fast, inexpensive trade routes through the former Soviet Union to Europe. (SIGNED) NEB/HK/AB/JO 18-Sep-2000 04:16 AM LOC (18-Sep-2000 0816 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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