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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Kim Jong-il holds talks with Putin
President Kim and President Putin
Talks are expected on establishing a rail link
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il of North Korea has held talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

The plane-shy Korean leader has been touring the Russian Far East on an armoured train for three days.

The talks between the two men were expected to focus on plans for a rail link between the Korean peninsula and Russia, as well as other infrastructure projects.

Since Mr Putin took office, Moscow has sought to strengthen ties with North Korea in an effort to ease that country's international isolation.

Reforms

During his trip, Mr Kim has visited shipyards, defence plants and other industries.

The North Korean leader earlier sent a message to Mr Putin in which he talked of the two countries' relations entering a new phase.

President Kim's armoured train
The North Korean leader is travelling by rail

Russian diplomats said the main reason for the visit was for Mr Kim to witness Russia's experience of economic reforms.

North Korea has recently introduced a number of economic changes, including price and wage hikes.

Analysts suspect the measures are designed to lift production and rein in the black market rather than a genuine reform of the state-controlled system.

North Korea has also embarked on a number of new diplomatic initiatives in recent weeks - meeting South Korean officials, planning talks with Japan and offering to host a US delegation.

Correspondents say all Pyongyang's moves are being scrutinised to see if its often erratic behaviour can be trusted.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Dalziel
"Putin possibly sees himself as a sort of go-between"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

20 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
14 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Aug 01 | Europe
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