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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kim's Long, Strange Trip Ends

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ended his epic trans-Siberian train journey Saturday, returning home from Russia with plans for greater economic ties and a document aimed at undermining U.S. missile defense plans.

Kim's trek of more than three weeks, from Pyongyang to Moscow and back, sent reminders of Russia's own Communist past echoing across the country, as vice-like security and road and rail chaos shadowed the Dear Leader's armored train.

But while much Russian coverage focused on the disruption caused to ordinary citizens by the trip, officials in Moscow and Pyongyang underlined the future benefits of economic cooperation and Kim's pledge to conduct a "peaceful" missile program.

"Our recent meeting ... has provided a historic occasion of further developing the cooperative relations between [North Korea] and Russia and ensuring peace and security in Asia and the rest of the world," Pyongyang's official Korea Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying in a message to President Vladimir Putin.

After visiting the tomb of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Kim met Putin and signed a declaration saying Pyongyang's missile program would not be a threat to any country respecting North Korean sovereignty.

Analysts said Putin would see the declaration as something of a triumph, giving him a document to help parry U.S. assertions that North Korea is one of several rogue states whose unpredictability must be neutralized with missile defense.

Kim also renewed his commitment to a moratorium on ballistic missile launches until 2003.

Both leaders also restated their commitment to preserving the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as the means to prevent any arms race. They say the pact would be wrecked by Washington's multibillion-dollar missile defense plans.

North Korea's official Rodong Shinmun newspaper said Saturday that officials would not hold talks with the United States while it continued to raise the issue of Pyongyang's missile capability.

"The DPRK [North Korea] and the U.S. cannot sit at the negotiating table as long as the latter has a dagger in its belt, and no success can be expected even if such dialogue takes place," the newspaper said in a commentary.

U.S.-North Korean contacts were put on hold when President George W. Bush took office in January and called for a review of his predecessor's policies, which had led to a flurry of exchanges between the Cold War foes in late 2000.

But Washington said in June that it was willing to resume talks on a range of issues, including Pyongyang's nuclear program, missile program, and the concentration of troops and weapons on its border with South Korea.

The two sides held working-level talks in June, but Pyongyang has not answered a call for broader discussions.

In Moscow, Putin said after meeting Kim that Russia backed reunification of North and South Korea but would not interfere in the process, and "understood" Pyongyang's insistence on the withdrawal of the 37,000 U.S. troops on South Korean territory.

The two Koreas remain technically at war under a 1953 armed truce that has kept their border sealed shut and fortified.

While Kim chugged back across Siberia, Russian and North Korean officials signed a deal which could culminate in a rail link uniting the peninsula, hooking Seoul's export-driven economy to Europe via the under-used trans-Siberian Railroad.

The line is intended to join Tumangun, on Russia's short border with North Korea, with Pyongyang on the border between North and South Korea. It would halve cargo delivery times between the peninsula and Europe.

Without giving details, Russian officials said after the summit that Moscow and Pyongyang had also agreed to cooperate in energy and mining projects and on overhauling the crumbling North Korean industrial complex.