North Korean leader's train arrives in Russia

AP News
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Posted: Aug 19, 2011 11:30 PM
North Korean leader's train arrives in Russia

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's special train arrived in Russia's Far East on Saturday, South Korean government officials and media reports said, in what could be his first visit to the country since 2002.

Kim's train arrived in the border city of Khasan, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said, citing a South Korean government source in the area. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter involved intelligence. A second South Korean ministry official also said that Kim's train had crossed the border, citing the same information.

Yonhap News agency and YTN television also reported the arrival of the train, quoting South Korean government officials they did not identify.

Tracking the secretive Kim's movements is difficult and it was not immediately clear whether he was on the train, but the news of a possible visit comes three months after Kim visited China.

Speculation of a trip to Russia emerged Friday after a South Korean lawmaker's aide said Seoul's spy agency saw signs that Kim was preparing to travel to Russia.

North Korea's state news agency was silent on any possible visit by Kim.

North Korea said last week that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a letter calling for greater energy cooperation among Russia and the two Koreas, saying it would enhance regional security.

Kim traveled to China in May for the third visit to his country's closest ally in just over a year. Many saw that as an attempt to secure aid, investment and support for his dynastic transfer of power to his third son, Kim Jong Un.

In Moscow, the Kremlin said Friday that it had no comment on a possible Kim visit.

Russia and North Korea maintain cordial ties, though they are not as close as they were in the days before the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had provided significant aid and support to Pyongyang. Moscow is a member of six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

Separately, Russia's Foreign Ministry announced Friday that the country has decided to provide North Korea with 50,000 metric tons of grain as humanitarian assistance and that the first shipment arrived Friday.

North Korea's state news agency also reported that provision, and said that additional food valued at $5 million and donated by Russia via the World Food Program "is also being provided."

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Associated Press writers Jiyoung Won and Kelly Olsen in Seoul and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.