N.Korea leader Kim's train enters Russia: Yonhap

20th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's special train entered Russia on Saturday, Yonhap news agency said, after reports over several days that the reclusive head of state would visit his giant neighbour.

Yonhap quoted an unidentified South Korean government source as saying that Kim's train pulled in to Khasan station in Russia at 0100 GMT after crossing the Tumen river, which forms the border between the two countries.

"There will be a welcome ceremony at Khasan," the source said.

Kim is expected to hold talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Ulan Ude, a Siberian city, on Tuesday, Yonhap said.

Kim has a much closer relationship with Beijing than he does with Moscow and last visited Russia in 2002, when he met then-president Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok.

His new trip comes as the North faces a hunger crisis and diplomatic efforts to resume multilateral talks on the nuclear-armed communist state have fallen into a stalemate.

Moscow said Friday it was sending up to 50,000 tonnes of wheat to North Korea.

Earlier in the week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a message to Kim calling for Pyongyang to co-operate in building a gas pipeline, railways and power lines across the heavily-fortified border with South Korea.

Russia will ship at least 10 billion cubic metres (350 billion cubic feet) of natural gas to South Korea every year from 2017 and wants to build a pipeline across North Korea to transport it.

Talks are also under way between Russia and North Korea on building power lines and railways.

Experts say North Korea could earn tens of millions of dollars a year from such projects in handling charges. But the schemes have yet to be approved by Pyongyang, despite its chronic need for hard currency.

The two Koreas, still technically at war, started their first regular cross-border trains in 2007, but services are presently suspended because of the tensions on the peninsula.

The South's long-term aim is to connect the rail line to Russia and China.

© 2011 AFP

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