Russia launches ferry connection with North Korea

The Man Gyong Bong ferry left the North Korean port city of Rason on Wednesday and arrived in Russia's Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Thursday morning, state news agency TASS reported.

Before the trial run this week, the North Korean ferry was in a rusted state and docked at Rajin port.

Investstroytrest said the ferry will provide transport for North Koreans working in Russian Federation and Chinese tourists wanting to travel by sea to Vladivostok.

Mikhail Khmel, deputy director of InvestStroiTrest, the joint operator of the Man Gyong Bong, said Chinese interest is not limited to tourism.

The first ever ferry service linking Russian Federation and North Korea was launched on Thursday, the company operating it said, hoping to serve tourists and North Korean workers.

Now, with Russian Federation and China practically the only states prepared to deal with North Korea, travel companies from the two countries are attempting to establish tourist links according to various press releases.

The service is pitched at Chinese tourists wanting to travel by sea to the Pacific port of Vladivostok, according to the operators.

China has no ports on the Sea of Japan, while Russian Federation - especially Vladivostok - is home to one of the largest overseas communities of North Koreans.

"We call on all nations to fully implement UN Security Council Resolutions, and sever or downgrade diplomatic and commercial relations with North Korea", a spokeswoman for the US State Department, Katina Adams, said when asked about the new ferry service. It is scheduled to leave Vladivostok for Rajin on Friday night.

The Mangyongbong used to travel between the North and Japan before Japan banned all North Korean vessels from Japanese waters following Pyongyang's missile tests in 2006.

Baranov said sixty tourists from China have already booked a trip on the next boat, which has 40 cabins as well as bars and a karaoke room, according to the company website.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that while Moscow was opposed to any new countries acquiring nuclear weapons, the world should talk to North Korea rather than threaten it.

"The opening of the ferry service between Vladivostok and Rason will certainly contribute to expanding economic and human contacts between Russia's Far East and North Korea".

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