US military officials have put the brakes on a proposed rail project that would connect the Korean Peninsula, underscoring growing differences between Washington and Seoul on engagement with the hermit kingdom.
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The governments of the two estranged nations were set to begin preliminary plans for the rail link last week, but their application to send a train from Seoul across the length of North Korea was denied by the US-led United Nations Command. The multinational military body, which traces its roots back to the Korean War, controls movement across the demilitarized zone which separates North and South Korea.

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Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia © Shannon Stapleton

The decision is the latest illustration of Washington’s hardline approach to dealing with Pyongyang. The US has demanded full denuclearization as a prerequisite to any economic cooperation with North Korea, while Seoul has taken a less extreme stance, favoring constructive engagement with its northern neighbor. South Korean President Moon Jae-in had expressed hope that the rail link would be completed by the end of the year.

Moon has invested considerable political capital into improving inter-Korean relations and has signaled his desire for large-scale investment in North Korea once sanctions are lifted.

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