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N. Korea modernizing railway lines with Russia's support

2014/10/22 16:45

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has begun a joint venture with Russia to renovate its key railway network, according to Pyongyang's media, amid growing signs of closer ties between the former communist allies.

The North held a ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday for re-building a railroad linking the logistical hub of Nampho and several areas rich in coal, cement and other natural resources, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday.

The project is designed to modernize the aged Jaedong-Kangdong-Nampho railway, a key industrial transportation route running through the capital, Pyongyang. Nampho is the North's largest port city along the west and Jaedong is home to a number of coal mines.

Participants in the event, held at the East Pyongyang Railway Station, included the North's external economy minister Ri Ryong-nam and Russia's minister of Far East development Alexander Galushka. They chair the Inter-Governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology between the sides.

Both North Korean and Russian officials agreed to the significance of the joint work to refurbish the North's aged railway, said the KCNA.

It quoted the Russian officials as describing it as "the first stage of realizing the large-scale cooperation project" and expanding economic partnership between the two nations.

A Russian broadcaster earlier reported that Pyongyang and Moscow signed a US$25 billion deal to modernize a combined 3,500-kilometer stretch of railways in North Korea. If confirmed, it would cover 60-70 percent of the North's railways.

The two nations have already teamed up to renovate the 54-kilometer double-track rail link between the town of Khasan in southeastern Russia and Rason in North Korea's northeastern tip.

Many observers take note of growing economic cooperation between North Korea and Russia.

Pyongyang is viewed as reaching out to Moscow as its ties with Beijing are not as good as before. Seoul has also suspended most of its economic cooperation with Pyongyang.

lcd@yna.co.kr

leechidong@gmail.com

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