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North Korea's new ferry service makes first trip to Russia

Staff Writer |
A new ferry line between isolated North Korea and its neighbour Russia docked for the first time at the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok on Thursday.

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The ferry's Russian operators say it is purely a commercial venture, but it coincides with what some academics say is a drive by North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, to build ties with Moscow in case its closest ally China turns its back.

Journalists were unable to see passengers disembarking from the ship, the North Korean-flagged Mangyongbong, because Russian officials kept them away from the quayside, citing unspecified security reasons.

Reuters television was able to speak to three passengers, who said they were representatives of Chinese tourism agencies.

One of them showed reporters a photograph on her smartphone she said had been taken on board. The photograph showed a plaque with an inscription in Korean which, she said, bore the name of North Korea's long-dead founder Kim Il Sung.

The weekly ferry service, between Vladivostok and the North Korean port of Rajin, is pitched at Chinese tourists wanting to travel by sea to Vladivostok, according to the operators.

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