Kim Jong Il Visits Lakeside Village Ahead of Medvedev Summit

Posted August 23rd, 2011 at 11:25 am (UTC-5)
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has arrived at a lakeside city in Siberia, where Russian news agencies say he has begun a day of sight-seeing ahead of a summit Wednesday with President Dmitry Medvedev.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said a motorcade took Mr. Kim from the train station in Ulan-Ude to a village on the shores of nearby Lake Baikal, where visitors normally take a boat ride and enjoy local seafood delicacies.

His meeting with Mr. Medvedev Wednesday is expected to deal with a proposed gas pipeline through North Korea, as well as with the North's nuclear weapons programs and Pyongyang's requests for food aid.

Russian officials announced Monday that a senior delegation of military officials is visiting Pyongyang for talks on expanded military cooperation. Reports said the talks would focus on natural disaster relief and the possibility of joint maneuvers to rescue ships in distress.

Mr. Kim's travel plans have been kept strictly secret in what analysts say is a Russian concession to the North Korean leader's long-standing concerns about personal safety.

Energy cooperation is expected to be a major issue in the summit. Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency said last week that Mr. Medvedev has requested North Korean cooperation on the construction of a gas pipeline from Russia, through North Korea to South Korea.

Such a pipeline would give South Korea huge savings on natural gas shipments from Russia, which are to begin later in this decade. North Korea would be able to ease its shortage of hard currency by charging up to $100 million a year in transit fees.

KCNA said Russia has also proposed 3-party cooperation in other energy fields and on a rail line linking Seoul to Russia's Trans-Siberia Railway.