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Posted : 2016-03-06 16:41
Updated : 2016-03-06 17:51

Govt. to discuss trans-Korea project with Russia

By Rachel Lee

The government will soon discuss with Russia the Rajin-Khasan project, a joint logistics program involving the two Koreas and Russia, the foreign minister said, Sunday.

"We will review the project in accordance with the (U.N. Security Council's) new sanctions against North Korea and soon hold consultations with Russia," said Yoon Byung-se on MBC television.

The trilateral project is aimed at transporting bituminous coal produced in Western Siberia to South Korean ports through the North's port city of Rajin and Russia's border town of Khasan.

The minister's remarks indicate that South Korea may be preparing to import coal directly from Russia in line with the U.N. resolution, which requires mandatory inspection of all cargo going in and out of North Korea and bans the exports of coal, iron and other mineral resources.

The 15-member council adopted the resolution last Thursday to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and long-range missile launch on Feb.7.

Seoul is also planning a set of unilateral actions against Pyongyang, and is reportedly considering a ban on vessels travelling to North Korea.

South Korea and Russia are likely to discuss other possible ways to proceed with the program, raising the possibility of excluding the North as a stopover en route from Russia to the South.

"We are trying to keep pace with the United States' new North Korea sanctions and will very soon unveil our new measures that will complement the U.N. Security Council's resolution," Yoon said.

The U.S. Congress passed legislation to step up sanctions against Pyongyang in January, including for the first time, terms for a secondary boycott, which refers to sanctions not only by U.S. citizens and businesses but also others with foreign interests that do business with North Korea.

Russia expressed its will to proceed with the project.

Russia's news agency Sputnik reported Thursday that the new measures would not affect the project and that the Russian railway company "intends to continue constructive cooperation with its partners on the project, in particular with Seoul."

The Park Geun-hye government has said that the Rajin-Khasan project is an integral part of its Eurasia initiative aimed at connecting roads and railways to build multi-purpose logistics networks among Eurasian nations.

Pyongyang and Moscow have been refurbishing a railway between Rajin and Khasan since 2008. Seoul decided to take part in the project at a summit between Park and Russian President Vladimir Putin in November of 2013.

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