SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea and Russia will start a cross-border cargo train service in October, Pyongyang's state media reported Monday, in a move that could make a North Korean port a regional hub for Europe-bound shipments.
The announcement came more than three years after the two countries launched a project to rebuild two rail lines between Russia's Far Eastern border town of Khasan and North Korea's northeastern port city of Rajin.
The North designated Rason, which includes the Rajin port, as a special economic zone in 1991 and has since striven to develop it into a regional logistics hub close to both China and Russia.
In October, North Korea and Russia held a test run on the 54-kilometer-long railway line.
The proposed cargo service can handle 100,000 shipping containers each year, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch.
The renovation project, if completed, will offer a new route of container transportation between Northeast Asia and Europe, the dispatch said, and could significantly reduce shipping time and costs.
The freight service could also help boost relations between North Korea and Russia, including their economic cooperation, the dispatch said.
The trade volume between North Korea and Russia stood at US$110 million in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to South Korea's state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
Russia maintains friendly ties with North Korea, though its leader Dmitry Medvedev has strongly denounced North Korea's rocket launch set for sometime between April 12 and 16.
Medvedev made the remarks during summit talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul last month on the sidelines of an international nuclear summit, according to Lee's office.
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