Russia launches ferry connection with North Korea

Ferry between Russia and North Korea starts regular service

The ferry service is expected to carry up to 200 passengers and 1,000 tonnes of cargo six times a month between North Korea and Vladivostok.

Human rights groups have already spoken out against the service, commenting that it will make another possible route through which Russian Federation may deport North Korean asylum seekers with fears of imprisonment and execution.

The trip marked the beginning of a once-weekly regular cargo-passenger service, according to TASS.

Vladimir Baranov, director of the company that operates the Man Gyong Bong boat serving the route, said potential passengers included "North Koreans coming to work in Russian Federation and tourists from northern China who miss the sea because they don't have their own".

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

It is said that the ship was involved in illegal exports of missile parts and was used as a place for North Korean agents to contact each other.

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The ferry service comes amid heightened tension between North Korea and the U.S. over Pyongyang's missile tests and efforts to develop a nuclear arsenal. The company expects most of its passengers to be Chinese tourists, who will be able to visit both Russia's Primorye region and North Korea in one trip, he told TASS.

Now, with Russian Federation and China practically the only states prepared to deal with North Korea, travel companies from the two countries are attempting to establish tourist links according to various press releases.

On the other end, Russian freight shipping company InvestStroiTrest will operate the ferry from North Korean port city of Rajin.

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.

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.

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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