First ferry service between Russia and North Korea starts

U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry Harris Jr. at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation

North Korea's cargo-passenger ship Mangyongbong arrived at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Vladivostok port, finishing its first cruise on a regular route linking North Korea and Russian Federation.

The Man Gyong Bong 92 left the North Korean port of Rajin on Wednesday evening with about 40 passengers on a trial run.

"These are Russian citizens, who are returning from North Korea, and tourists from China", said Mikhail Khmel, deputy director general of Investstroytrest, quoted by TASS.

The Man Gyong Bong was built in the "hermit kingdom" in 1971 and was a year ago chartered by RosKor and is owned by the Russian company InvestStroyTrest.

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The launch of the route comes at a time when many North Korean merchants ships are badly in need of fix.

It is the first time that the Mangyongbong has visited the Russian port since the route between the port of Rajin, in northeastern North Korean, and Vladivostok was established to boost economic cooperation.

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.

The Port State Control Committee of the Asia-Pacific published 2016 data on North Korea merchant ships that indicate the vessels on average were found to have eight safety issues per ship.

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The Mangyongbong used to regularly shuttle between Japan and North Korea. Washington has said the North's weapons development should be treated with urgency.

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

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.

"Russia doesn't want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, but the response from officials in Moscow has been minimal because they know Russian Federation isn't one of Pyongyang's targets", he added.

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