The two Koreas discussed yesterday whether to cut back the first freight train service over their heavily armed border for more than 50 years because there is so little cargo.
Held up as a symbol of warming ties on the Cold War's last frontier when it started last month, North Korea now sees little point of a daily service when the wagons are mostly empty, South Korean officials said.
"The freight train runs every day, but only once or twice a week is there freight in the containers," said Byun Hyun-jin, a South Korean railway official who helps supervise the cross-border runs.
South Korea runs a 12-car train on a route of approximately 20km between the South and the Kaesong industrial enclave it manages just inside North Korea where its companies have access to cheap land and labor.
Because the level of output at Kaesong it still low, companies there find it more convenient to ship by a road that runs across the heavily militarized border, South Korean rail officials said.
The Roh government envisions a day when more than a half million North Koreans are working at Kaesong and the rail link will play an essential role in transport.
The rail talks in Kaesong end today.
Meanwhile, the US State Department's top Koreas expert launched a mission to advance a stalled nuclear disarmament deal, heading yesterday to South Korea and planning to travel this week to China and North Korea, the US embassy said.
The accord aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear programs appeared at a standstill after the communist nation missed a Dec. 31 deadline to declare all its nuclear programs.
North Korea has said it provided a statement, but the US says that statement was incomplete.
The State Department official, Sung Kim, was to arrive in South Korea later yesterday and was planning to leave today for Beijing and travel tomorrow to Pyongyang before returning to Washington on Sunday, embassy spokesman Max Kwak said in Seoul.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday in Washington that she hopes the North is "ready to have serious discussions" about the declaration, adding that its completion is "necessary in order for further progress to be made on all of the obligations."