South and North Korean officials announced yesterday that they had reached an agreement to open cross-border roads and make test runs on two railways across their heavily fortified frontier in coming months. \nUnder the accord, which followed a four-day meeting of economic officials in the North Korean capital, the two sides will open two roads, one across the western part of the inter-Korean border and the other in the east. \nThey will also test-run two railways running alongside the roads, a media pool report from Pyongyang said. \n"The South and North ... shall test run on the linked sections of the railways in October 2004," said a joint statement. \n"In addition, the two sides will open the Seoul-Sinuiju road and the Eastern road no later than in October," it said. \nThe two sides also agreed to set up by the end of June a joint agency to run an industrial park being built in North Korea's Kaesong city near the border and appoint a South Korean to oversee it. \nThe sprawling park, mainly housing hundreds of South Korean garment and other labor-intensive plants, will be connected to the western cross-border transport links. \nElectricity for the complex will come from the South after the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. completes building powerlines by late September. \nProduction at the complex will start by the end of this year, the agreement said. \nSouth and North Korean officials at the meeting also said they needed to speed up work on a demonstration complex in the park to ensure that South Korean firms move in and begin production, officials from Seoul said. \nFifteen firms out of 136 applicants seeking to operate in the Kaesong complex have been selected, including watch maker Romanson. \n"The South, out of brotherly love and the principle of mutual help, will provide the North with a loan of 400,000 tonnes of rice," the agreement said. \nThe breakthrough is expected to expand cooperation and contribute to stability on the peninsula, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said. \nThe accord at the Pyongyang economic talks followed a breakthrough Friday in separate military talks in a South Korean resort where the two sides agreed to ease tension along the world's last Cold War frontier. \nGeneral-level officers of the Koreas agreed to set up a hotline and to avoid accidental armed clashes in the disputed western sea border.
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Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin (胡錫進) on Sunday said that as China ponders its COVID-19 policies, epidemic experts need to speak out and China ought to conduct comprehensive research and make any studies transparent to the public. Hu’s unusual call on Chinese social media for candor and transparency earned him 34,000 likes on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging platform, as well as frank responses from commentators in a normally tightly policed Internet quick to censor voices deemed a risk to social stability. China’s top leaders warned in May amid the COVID-19 lockdown of Shanghai and widespread restrictions in the Chinese capital, Beijing,
ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER: Most of the escaped gas is methane, the second biggest contributor to climate change and a ‘potent greenhouse gas,’ an oceanographer said Denmark on Tuesday said it believed “deliberate actions” by unknown perpetrators were behind big leaks — which seismologists said followed powerful explosions — in two natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage amid the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine. Although filled with gas, neither pipeline is currently supplying it to Europe. “It is the authorities’ clear assessment that these are deliberate actions — not accidents,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. However, she added that “there is no information indicating who could be behind it.” Frederiksen
AT WASHINGTON SUMMIT: The agreement between the US and 14 Pacific nations came half a year after the Solomon Islands struck a security deal with China The Solomon Islands has joined 13 other Pacific nations in signing a wide-reaching US-led partnership agreement, after early indications it would refuse. The 10-point US-Pacific Partnership deal was announced by the White House on Thursday evening, following the first-ever meeting between a US president and the leaders of every major Pacific nation. It includes commitments for increased action on climate change, economic development and security cooperation. Earlier, US President Joe Biden committed more than US$810 million to a new Pacific initiative. “A great deal of the history of our world is going to be written in the Indo-Pacific over the coming years