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City news, 31.07.2001 12:12

North Korean leader is going to visit Petersburg.

C:\ћои документы\kim.jpg North Korea's secretive leader Kim Jong Il started a 10-day train journey across Russia on Thursday, heading for Moscow and Petersburg on the Trans-Siberian Railway on only his third foreign trip as leader of his impoverished and isolated country.

Kim's train Ч he is rumored to be afraid to fly Ч arrived in Russia's Far East, crossing the border at the town of Khasan near the Pacific coast, and headed north through Russia's Primorye region

Russia's NTV television showed Kim, wearing a dark gray leisure suit and standing in the sunlight by the dark green, 21-car train at the border. A woman from a Russian welcoming delegation handed him a bouquet of pink roses.

Preparations for the trip were surrounded by the secrecy characteristic of Kim's rule. His impending arrival was confirmed only the day before by a Russian customs official, while the Kremlin and Foreign Ministry said they had no information on any trip.

It was only the third known foreign visit by the 59-year-old Kim as leader of North Korea. Since taking power from his father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, he has twice visited China. His trip there in May 2000 Ч also by train Ч remained secret until he returned home.

Russian officials say that when he meets with President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders may discuss possible rail links between the Trans-Siberian and a proposed inter-Korean railway system. Kim is also planning a trip to St. Petersburg.

(c) 2000