Russian train travels to NKorea along repaired link
A train from Far Eastern Russia on Thursday made its inaugural run to North Korea along a newly repaired link as Moscow seeks to expand a foothold in the isolated nation.
The 54-kilometre (34-mile) link to the northeastern North Korean port of Rajin and the planned construction of a cargo terminal there are expected to boost Russia's economic ties with the secretive nation and the entire Asian region.
The train, which runs from the Russian border town of Khasan to Rajin, can now run after three years of renovation works led by Russian Railways.
"This segment of the railroad is the first part of the project to reconstruct all the Trans-Korean rail for its further integration into the Trans-Siberian railroad," Russian Railways quoted its vice-president Valery Reshetnikov as saying in a statement.
An agreement signed in 2008 also foresees the construction of a modern cargo terminal in Rajin in a project estimated at 8.3 billion rubles ($267 million). The railway will be used to transport coal out of Russia, among other purposes.
Russian Railways already has a twice monthly passenger service from Moscow to the North Korean capital Pyongyang which takes a week to cover over 10,000 kilometres.
But the Khasan-Rajin link is expected to significantly help Russia's efforts to boost trade in the Far Eastern region with its neighbour.
Khasan mayor Ivan Stepanov said the project breathed new life in his small depressed settlement of 800 people and created new employment opportunities.
"We've practically been isolated for 20 years," Stepanov told AFP.
"We didn't have jobs, people were leaving," he said, adding that access to Rajin would also give Russia more opportunities for trade with South Korea, China and Europe.
In August, Kim Jong-Il, the secretive leader of North Korea, travelled to Russia for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev amid Russian efforts to engage the Stalinist state in dialogue through a number of economic projects.
They include a long-stalled plan for a trans-Korean railroad, the construction of an electricity transmission line and a pipeline carrying Russian gas to South Korea via the North.
© 2011 AFP