Putin lobbies for ‘Iron Silk Road’ via N. Korea, hopes political problems solved shortly
"I hope political problems will be solved at an early date, as
South Korea, North Korea and Russia will reap great economic
benefits when it's completed," Putin said, while speaking at
a South Korea-Russia business conference.
The project President Putin was lobbying for during his one-day
visit to South Korea aims to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway,
the world's longest railroad that connects Russia's east and
west, to South Korea via the North, creating an integrated
freight railway network to speed cargo shipments between Asia and
Europe. But it requires improving bilateral cooperation between
the two conflicting Koreas.
"This project, if accomplished, will help make a great
contribution to the establishment of peace and stability on the
Korean peninsula," Putin said
As Russia sees it, the rail link will extended through North
Korea, across the world's last Cold War frontier, and all the way
down to the southern South Korean port of Busan.
But so far the project has been facing several challenges, mainly
political obstacles given the rocky nature of North-South
relations, and economic sanctions the UN imposed on Pyongyang
over its nuclear weapons program.
Despite that Russia has moved forward towards the project’s
As a first step, in September, it opened a 54-kilometer railway linking the North
Korean port city of Rajin with the Russian border town of Khasan.
Located in the far northeast, where the borders of North Korea,
Russia and China meet, Rajin offers a port for the North's two
giant neighbors, making it a potentially effective trading hub.
The terminal at Rajin, as expected, will be able to handle the
import of four million tons of coal a year, including shipments
for OAO Mechel - one of Russia’s leading mining and metallurgical
The freight rail track is expected to be used for transporting
not only coal, but also goods from South Korea and Asian states.
It was estimated that cargo shipments from Asia to Europe would
take up to 14 days instead of 45 days via sea freight shipping.
The second phase of the project will involve the construction of
a container-handling facility and potentially an oil terminal at
the North Korean site, OAO Russian Railways Chief Executive
Officer, Vladimir Yakunin, said at the opening ceremony back in
Putin arrived in Seoul earlier in the day and was accompanied by
several ministers and officials on his one-day state visit.