Trump says hopes to meet N.Korea's Kim in January or February

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At Kaesong, South Korea's locomotive was swapped with North Korea's, and three North Korean cars which Seoul's Unification Ministry did not immediately specify were attached to the six South Korean cars.

North Korea entered into agreements with regional powers in 1994 and in 2005 to dismantle its nuclear programme in return for economic benefits and diplomatic rewards, but those deals broke down after Pyongyang clandestinely continued to pursue building weapons of mass destruction.

The train, made up of six cars and carrying dozens of South Korean officials and experts, left Dorasan Station, just south of the inter-Korean border, around 9:05 a.m. for Panmun Station, near the North's border city of Kaesong.

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Despite the warming ties, it remains unclear whether Kim will make his first-ever visit to the South this year, as Seoul is hoping.

"We will closely consult with relevant countries going forward to make sure the inter-Korean railway connection project can proceed with the support of the global community", Unification Minister Cho said.

Those events, combined with a recent North Korean threat to renew overt nuclear development should Washington continue opposing sanctions relief, suggested to many analysts that the countries are having problems seeing eye-to-eye, calling into question when a second summit might take place.

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While the United States allowed for the exemption, Washington is unlikely to support the further delivery of benefits to North Korea as far as plans for an inter-Korean rail connection are concerned.

United States President Donald Trump told his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in that he wanted to hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the White House said in a statement, according to AFP.

Twenty-eight South Korean officials including people from the unification, and land, infrastructure and transport ministries will inspect the 400-kilometer section from Gaeseong to Sinuiju through December 5.

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They will travel some 2,600 kilometres (1,600 miles) on railway tracks together, the transport ministry said. The journey required special permission from the United Nations to carry equipment and fuel into the North despite the sanctions regime. The line was cut in November 2008 due to political tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and the hard-line policies of a new conservative government in Seoul. He added that the two Koreas would seek additional surveys later on if necessary.