Competing visions for regional integration and development in Northeast Asia speak to its potential global significance. But for now, Northeast Asian development remains mostly promise and, even where actual progress is made, it tends to stir no shortage of controversy.
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Negotiations between North and South Korea have revived prospects for reconnecting the Korean peninsula. A critical aspect of connectivity is energy infrastructure, which will require analysis and technical planning to make the most of any future political openings. This series of case studies underscores the poor state of North Korea’s existing energy infrastructure, illustrates different models for delivering projects, and considers the strategic implications of different paths forward for the peninsula’s energy connections.
Should inter-Korean cooperation result in the re-joining of North and South Korea’s railways, it could connect the peninsula through China and Russia to a rail network that spans Eurasia. President Moon has been building on South Korea’s longstanding, albeit intermittent, conversations and aspirational cooperation commitments with China and Russia to plan for future integration. However, once the Korean peninsula’s railways are reconnected, a long and costly modernization process will be necessary to fully integrate the systems in a commercially viable way, complicating the future of these potentially transformative links.
Reconnecting Asia tracks infrastructure developments across Eurasia, a vast landmass that includes 60 percent of the global economy. Every day, new projects are announced; some advance, while others encounter obstacles. Here is a selection of projects and trends we will be following in 2019.
North and South Korea are pushing railway cooperation as an engine for advancing inter-Korean relations. Railway connections could integrate the peninsula into a network that spans the continent, marking a significant diplomatic and geopolitical accomplishment. However, significant obstacles still remain.