No big deal in global terms but a rare link with the outside world for North Koreans lucky enough to be permitted to visit abroad
A tourist ferry has completed its first cruise from the North Korean port of Rajin to the Russian city of Vladivostok. The route’s opening marks Pyongyang’s bid to develop trade and tourism ties with Russia amid growing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Representatives of Chinese and Russian tourism companies were on board the ferry that arrived in Vladivostok on Thursday, RIA Novosti reports, citing the route operator. The first tourists on the first-ever passenger connection between the two countries are expected next week, it added.
The route’s launch is slated to “contribute to the development of regional tourism and bilateral trade,” the Russian consul general in the city of Chongjin, Yuriy Bochkarev, told TASS news agency.
The passenger ferry will make the trip four times a month. The Mangyongbong ferry is also said to carry up to 200 passengers and around 1,500 tons of cargo, according to TASS.
Anyone willing to embark on the Rajin-Vladivostok cruise will have to pay $87-101, depending on cabin class. The Russian company, which operates the Mangyongbong, offers a restaurant, a couple of bars, slot machines, stores and a sauna.
“Mangyongbong’s operation as the Rajin-Vladivostok international tourist liner will make a positive contribution to developing marine transport and economic cooperation and tourism between the two countries,” Reuters cited the North Korean KCNA news agency.
The Mangyongbong used to travel between the North and Japan before Japan banned all North Korean vessels from Japanese waters following Pyongyang’s missile tests in 2006.
Speaking in Beijing on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin underscored the need “to return to dialogue with North Korea,” calling on world leaders to seek diplomatic solutions. He then stressed that Russia remains firmly opposed to the expansion of nuclear powers’ club with nukes on the Korean peninsula.
Following one of Pyongyang’s latest missile launches on Saturday, the UN Security Council threatened North Korea with a new raft of sanctions, urging it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile activity. The new South Korean leader, Moon Jae-in, also condemned North Korea’s latest tests, stating that there was a “high possibility” of military conflict between the countries.