N. Korea leader may soon visit Russia: report
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il may soon visit Russia, South Korean news reports said Friday.
South Korean intelligence officials told a parliamentary committee that Kim's trip to Russia is probably imminent, Yonhap news agency said.
The National Intelligence Service declined to confirm the report.
Seoul-based cable news network YTN said Kim, known to dislike air travel due to security concerns, may cross the border between Russia and North Korea on Saturday aboard his special train.
Yonhap reported Thursday that the reclusive leader had been staying in the northeastern port of Hamheung for a summer holiday since early August.
Kim last visited Russia in 2002, when he met then-president Vladimir Putin in Russia's Far Eastern region of Vladivostok.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a message to Kim on Monday calling for cooperation in the building of a gas pipeline, railways and power lines across the heavily-fortified border with South Korea.
The message, published by Pyongyang's state media, coincided with the anniversary of the end of Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.
Russia will ship at least 10 billion cubic metres (350 billion cubic feet) of natural gas to South Korea every year from 2017. It wants to build a pipeline across North Korea to transport this gas.
Talks are also under way between Russia and North Korea on the laying of power lines and railways.
Experts say such projects could give North Korea tens of millions of dollars a year in handling charges. But they have yet to be approved by Pyongyang, despite its chronic need for hard currency.
The two Koreas, still technically at war, opened their first regular cross-border train service in 2007. But the line is presently suspended because of tensions. The South's long-term plans include connecting the line to Russia and China.
© 2011 AFP