North Korea's New Ferry Service Makes First Trip to Russia

Forty Six Year Old RoPax Ship Brought into Service for Tourists and Cargo RUSSIA - NORTH KOREA - A new cargo/passenger ferry service linking the North Korean port of Rajin and the Far Eastern Russian port of Vladivostok, completed its first trip on May 18, marking the start of a new weekly service aboard the recently renovated North Korean flagged Man Gyoung Bong, a RoPax vessel which is capable of carrying around 200 passengers and holding up to 1,500 tonnes of different types of freight.

North Korean ferry Man Gyong Bong-92 anchors at the central pier of the Niigata port, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Tokyo, 04 September 2003.

An estimated 40 passengers boarded the boat for the maiden voyage.

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

Despite UN sanctions ristricting North Korea due to it's nuclear program, it's expected that Chinese tourists will likely use the ferry service - which boasts a restaurant, bars and a karaoke room - to travel between North Korea and Russian Federation, according to BBC News.

The vessel will travel weekly between the city of Vladivostok in eastern Russian Federation and the North Korean port of Rajin.

"Rajin-Vladivostok global tourist liner Man Gyong Bong will be operated by the common efforts of the DPRK and Russian Federation", reads a report by North Korea's state news agency KCNA.

The Mangyongbong will shuttle between Rajin and Vladivostok once a week.

North Korea is once again under global pressure over its nuclear weapons programme, after test-firing a ballistic missile on Sunday that landed in the sea near Russia.The United States has been discussing possible new U.N. sanctions with China, which disapproves of the North's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them.

"While Russia is concerned about North Korea and its missiles, it also sees North Korea as an opportunity to gain leverage with the West, the United States in particular", said Matthew Chance, CNN Senior International Correspondent based in Moscow.

This week the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said he was against expanding the "club of nuclear powers ... but we must stop intimidating North Korea".

Russia's close economic links with North Korea date back to the Cold War, when they were ideological allies hostile to the West.

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