NORTH KOREA: Minister of Railway Transport Kim Yong Sam signed an agreement with Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin in Moscow on April 24 clearing the way for the start of work on the reconstruction of the 54 km railway from the border station at Khasan/Tumangan to the Korean port of Rajin, where a new container terminal is to be constructed.

The Russian railway operator's business subsidiary RZD Trading has signed a joint venture agreement with the Port of Rajin to manage the project. The Russians will hold 70% of the shares and the Korean side the remainder. A consulting committee is to be formed to co-ordinate implementation, including the raising of finance from external investors and the appointment of construction firms to undertake the work. The joint venture would then take responsibility for operation of the infrastructure on behalf of the two countries.

Khasan - Rajin is seen as a pilot project for the long-planned restoration of the 930 km Trans-Korean Railway linking the Russian border to Demilitarized Zone, and eventually to the ports of South Korea.

'We have been striving for seven years to reach this agreement', said Yakunin at the signing ceremony. 'I am sure that the agreement we signed to-day will contribute to strengthening the economic relationship between Russia and the Korean People's Democratic Republic and between the KPDR and the Republic of Korea.'

RZD opened an office in Pyongyang in September 2001 to co-ordinate negotiations for revitalising the rail links between the three countries, following the signing of an agreement between the two presidents Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Il earlier that year (RG 11.01 p730).