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North, South Korea ceremoniously link railroads — but there won't be any trains running

While the tracks may now be connected, sanctions are keeping trains from making the journey between the two countries

Korea Pool/Getty Images

North and South Korea held a ceremony Wednesday to complete a railway line between the two countries. However, due to sanctions that are still in place on North Korea, no trains will be allowed to travel along this route for the time being.

Here's what we know

Representatives from both governments met in the town of Kaesong on the North Korean side of the border. At the ceremony, officials from the two Koreas signed a railroad tie, watched as the railroad tracks between two countries were connected, and unveiled a sign pointing to each of their capitals.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In agreed that this ceremony should happen during a meeting back in April.

Officials from neighboring Russia and China were also in attendance.

But while the ceremony itself may have been reminiscent of that surrounding the Golden Spike that connected the transcontinental railroad in the United States in 1869, it accomplished little besides a gesture. Sanctions on North Korea prevent any trains from traveling along this route in either direction.

Even without the sanctions, the existing infrastructure in the North needs to be updated before it can handle railway traffic from South Korea. Analysts cited by ABC News speculated that these upgrades would cost billions of dollars.

What else?

This ceremony is just the latest example of South Korea's eagerness to keep a dialogue open with North Korea. In October, South Korea's foreign minister announced that her country would be lifting some of its sanctions on North Korea. However, the South Korean government retracted that promise after receiving backlash from the United States.

While President Donald Trump said in a Christmas Eve tweet that "progress" was being made in relations between the U.S. and North Korea, just last week a North Korean state newspaper stated firmly that the country would never denuclearize until the "American nuclear threat" was eliminated.

One last thing…
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