MOSCOW — North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il said in an interview released Wednesday that Moscow and Pyongyang were pressing ahead with plans to lay a Russian gas pipeline across the divided Korean peninsula.
The leader of the Stalinist state spoke in an exclusive interview with Russian news agency ITAR-Tass after travelling to Siberia in August for a landmark summit with President Dmitry Medvedev.
"The development of Korean-Russian economic cooperation in all spheres related, among other things, to issues of laying gas pipelines and connecting railways meets the interests of the people of both countries and also facilitates the prosperity of the region," Kim told the Russian news agency in written answers to questions.
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Russia are dynamically undertaking practical steps on these projects to implement cooperation in the energy sphere including the construction of gas pipelines," he said.
ITAR-Tass, which is one of the few foreign media to have a bureau in Pyongyang, said it was the secretive Kim's first interview to news media in nine years.
The Kremlin maintains that every opportunity must be seized to engage North Korea in dialogue and trilateral projects such as a trans-Korean railway and sending gas and power supplies from north to south of the divided Korean peninsula as it can help bring peace to the region.
The bilateral summit in the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude gave a boost to Russia's gas talks with Seoul and Pyongyang, even though analysts remain sceptical on the prospects of a gas pipeline across the peninsula because of the political risks.
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