05/25/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA – NORTH KOREA
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Pyongyang says no to train link with south, reasons unclear

Alleging tensions over West Sea territorial waters, North Korea decided at the last moment to cancel the test run of the new railway line that would have linked the country's north and south. 

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea abruptly repudiated the agreement it struck with South Korea to establish a north-south railway link. Today's scheduled test run was called off suddenly after Pyongyang announced its intention to cancel the cross-border train. Officially, the decision was taken because of the two Koreas' failure to agree on the means to prevent clashes in the West Sea, but many are convinced there are other motives.

North Korea's decision comes as a surprise. The two Koreas had already agreed on detailed minute-by-minute plans for the test run. The North's own preparations for the test run were reported to be progressing at a steady pace.

It is highly likely that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had a direct hand in cancelling the plans.

According to South Korea's Unification Ministry, Pyongyang might be playing for more food aid.

Deputy Unification Minister Shin Un-sang said Seoul will now have to review its plan "from a variety of perspectives to determine" what steps to take.

Others are inclined to think that Kim is simply flexing his muscles to show that he has the final say on all major inter-Korean issues.

"By calling off the plan, the North intends to show that its military is determined to protect the system," said Prof Ko Yu-hwan of Dongguk University. This suggests, Professor Ko believes, that the North Korean military is behind Kim's change of mind.

Kim is not new to such moves. In June 2000 North Korea delayed the historic inter-Korean summit for one day because the money the then Kim Dae-jung administration promised had not yet gone into its bank account.

Under the circumstances, the South Korean government has decided to wait out a working-level meeting scheduled for May 29 that is to prepare for Kim Dae-jung's visit.

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