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North Korea's Kim Begins Trip to Russian Far East - 2002-08-20

Reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is in the Russian Far East Tuesday in a rare trip for the North Korean leader, outside his home country.

The Communist leader, who avoids flying, crossed the border from North Korea to Russia by train, Tuesday morning.

When he arrived at the border crossing station, Mr. Kim made a brief appearance on the train platform before going back inside the carriage.

The governor of the Primorsky region, Sergei Darkin, was among the group of people who welcomed the North Korean leader at the station.

Mr. Darkin says the goal of the trip is for Mr. Kim to become acquainted with the Far Eastern region of Russia.

Mr. Darkin says he would like to discuss economic issues such as agriculture, logging and electricity with the North Korean leader.

According to the Russian media, Mr. Kim is scheduled to visit a number of cities in the Russian Far East, before returning home.

It is not clear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with the North Korean leader during his stay. Russian media reported earlier Mr. Putin may fly to the Far East for a meeting sometime during Mr. Kim's stay.

This is Mr. Kim's second visit to Russia in as many years. Last summer, he traveled by rail from North Korea to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The visit and the heavy security surrounding it snarled rail traffic along the route for days.

Russian officials emphasize this visit will focus on economic issues. Recently, North Korea has indicated that it would like to implement economic reforms.