Kim, Medvedev summit Wednesday: source

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North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong Il on Monday rumbled across Siberia aboard his armoured train headed for a secrecy-shrouded summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

A Russian official familiar with the planning told AFP the two leaders's rare summit would take place in the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude on Wednesday.

"The guest is arriving tomorrow," the regional official, who refused to go on the record because of the sensitivity of the situation, said on Monday.

"Our (leader) will be there Wednesday," he said.

The talks will take place in the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude near Lake Baikal in the Buddhist region of Buryatia, 5,550 kilometres (3,450 miles) east of Moscow, he said.

Kim will also be shown around the picturesque shores of Lake Baikal and offered a boat ride, the official said.

He did not provide further details, saying he had given a written pledge not to disclose this information.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited a Seoul-based senior government official as saying: "There is a possibility that Kim will arrive in Ulan-Ude on Aug. 23 and hold the summit on Aug. 24 after spending a night."

In an apparent nod to Kim's concerns about personal safety, the Kremlin imposed a virtual blanket ban on information about the plans and itinerary of the 69-year-old leader, now rumbling across the Trans-Siberian railway aboard his special armoured train.

The Kremlin said in a terse statement that the summit will be the highlight of the reclusive Kim's week-long tour of Russia's Far East and Siberia, his second visit to the giant neighbour since 2002.

Monday was the third day of Kim's week-long trek, a rare trip out of his country battling food shortages and isolation.

"The special train carrying the general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the National Defence Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is going along the Trans-Siberian railway in the direction of Ulan-Ude," the administration of the Buryatia region said.

"Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, the Amur region have been left behind, and Chita is now the next big city along the Transsib railway," it said in a statement on its website quoting the ITAR-TASS news agency.

A spokesman for the Buryatia regional authorities said he could not provide details of Kim's plans in the region.

"Everything is being kept secret," he said.

The Kremlin announced the high-profile visit several hours after Kim's armoured train crossed the border into Russia on Saturday.

On Sunday he visited the 2,000 megawatt-strong Bureiskaya hydro-power station in the Amur region, the largest in the Far East.

Russian news agencies, citing the Russian defence ministry, said on Monday a delegation of Russian military officials had arrived in North Korea with an eye to boosting military and naval cooperation.

"The sides will discuss the prospects of cooperation of the two countries' ground forces, possibilities to conduct joint exercises and drills to search and rescue ships in distress," the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted a defence ministry spokesman as saying.

Rendering assistance to the population during natural disasters would also be on the agenda, it said, adding that the delegation led by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko, commander of the Eastern Military District, would remain in North Korea until Friday.

The official Korean Central News Agency quoted General of the Korean People's Army Kim U Ho as saying that the news of Kim's tour of Russia "filled the hearts of the servicepersons with boundless longing for him."

© 2011 AFP

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