North Korean leader Kim Jong-il yesterday toured around the world’s largest freshwater lake in eastern Siberia and visited an aircraft factory, leaving his armored train en route to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. They are expected to meet this evening.
The North’s leader stepped out of his train in Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia, a Buddhist province near Lake Baikal, early yesterday. His motorcade soon left for a village on the shores of Baikal.
Inform Polis Online, a local Web site, said Kim visited the village of Turka in the afternoon. The Web site earlier reported that a cruise ship was waiting for Kim outside the village for a possible trip on the lake. The area was flooded with North Korean and Russian security officers and ambulances, the Web site said.
Kim later returned to Ulan-Ude to visit a major aircraft factory, which among other things produces Sukhoi attack planes, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported from the plant.
Kim will be meeting Medvedev for talks that could focus on a natural gas pipeline deal. The pipeline would stream Russian natural gas through the North to the South. South Korea media said the North could earn up to US$100 million every year, but negotiations haven’t reported much progress because of a standoff over Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Kim’s visit is shrouded in mystery. A few people managed to take photographs of him at a stop on Sunday, but heavy police cordons kept the media in Ulan-Ude away from the train station and the adjacent square.
Anna Ogorodnik, a photographer from Ulan-Ude, said by telephone that streets were full of riot police. the windows of the station building overlooking the tracks were plastered with paper and employees had been ordered to stay indoors.
Meanwhile, Russian military officials arrived in Pyongyang on Monday for a five-day visit. The Russian Defense Ministry said the talks would focus on the renewal of military cooperation.