Seoul says North Korea and China are reopening freight train traffic

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea and China resumed freight train service on Monday after a five-month hiatus, South Korean officials said, as the North works to restart a economy battered by the pandemic, UN sanctions and other factors.

The reopening came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month made a dubious claim to have overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and ordered a relaxation of restrictions protecting against the spread of the coronavirus.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said it had assessed the North Korea-China freight rail service had restarted on Monday, although neither Beijing nor Pyongyang said it would. have confirmed. Spokesman Cho Joonghoon said it would remain to be seen how long the train service would last and what goods would be transferred.

Earlier on Monday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said it saw a freight train with more than 10 cars leaving the Chinese border town of Dandong and crossing a railway bridge to the North Korean city of Sinuiju.

In April, China said it had halted freight train traffic amid the spread of COVID-19 in Dandong. Earlier in January, the two countries reopened the rail link after a two-year suspension while North Korea closed all of its international borders under the world’s toughest restrictions to guard against the pandemic.

China, which shares a porous border with North Korea, is the North’s economic pipeline and last major diplomatic ally. More than 90% of North Korea’s foreign trade is with China. The plummeting volume of trade between them during the pandemic has reportedly caused further strain on the fragile northern economy, which has also been hit by sanctions, natural disasters and Kim’s mismanagement.

Kim’s claim to have beaten the pandemic came only three months after his country first admitted an outbreak following a hotly contested claim of being coronavirus-free for more than two years. .

Hyung-jin Kim, Associated Press


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