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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

South Koreans Want In On Trans-Siberian Link

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East ? South Korea wants to join the project extending the Trans-Siberian Railroad across the Korean peninsula, a spokesman for Russia's Railways Ministry said Thursday.

Top South Korean railroad officials are visiting Russia to assess some of the key features of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, said Vladimir Pechyorin, a spokesman in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok.

South Korea is interested in joining the agreement for upgrading the North Korean railroad, which President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il signed earlier this month.

The delegation, led by Son Hok-rae, director of South Korea's National Railroads Department, is expected to raise the issue Sept. 4 during a meeting with Russian Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko in Moscow.

"They want the upgrade to take place with their involvement," Pechyorin said.

Korean experts entered Russia on Tuesday and traveled to Khasan station, the link between the railway systems of Russia and North Korea. Content with the state of equipment and computerization on the Russian side, they offered help in modernizing the North Korean side of the link, Pechyorin said.

On Thursday, the seven-member delegation flew to Novosibirsk, a major Trans-Siberian station in western Siberia. Before Moscow, it also intends to stop over in St. Petersburg, which handles Asian cargo in transit heading for Finland and other northern European countries.

A feasibility study to refit North Korean railways will start in September, with Russia sending 60 experts there for two months, said Gennady Vedernikov, a spokesman for the Railways Ministry's Far Eastern branch in Khabarovsk.

The rail link across North Korea would allow Russia to be a transport bridge between South Korea's export-driven economy with the European market.

Earlier this month, Deputy Railways Minister Alexander Tselko said Russia was "entering the highly competitive world of the transportation market, attracting large shipping volumes, creating new working places all along the Trans-Siberian Railroad and strengthening our position in the Far East."

The project would cut the time needed to transport goods between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region from the 30 to 40 days required for sea transport to 13 to 18 days ? and could drastically reduce carrying costs.

The route's annual capacity could be boosted from 200,000 to 500,000 containers.

Currently, of the 1 million containers hauled yearly between the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, only 5 percent traverse the Trans-Siberian.

The link would start in Tumangun on the Russia-North Korea border and end at the boundary between North and South Korea near Pyongyang. (AP, MT)