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N. Korean ferry to sail on 3-country tour route: report

All News 12:16 July 19, 2016

SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) -- The North Korean passenger ferry Mangyongbong will be put on a China-North Korea-Russia tour route next month, a Washington-based broadcaster reported Tuesday.

"Tourism officials (from the three nations) agreed on the trilateral project at their meeting in (the North Korean special economic zone of) Rason last Tuesday," Radio Free Asia quoted a tourism bureau official from the far eastern Chinese city of Hunchun, Jilin Province, as saying.

The officials also agreed to make use of the North Korean ship as a tour boat that will cover a section of the route from the North Korean port of Rajin to Russia's Vladivostok, the radio said. The tour will also link Rason to Hunchun in China, although what ship will be employed for this leg of the route has not been mentioned.

After the meeting, the attendants inspected the interior facilities of the ship moored at the Rajin port.

The 3,500-ton vessel will undergo a safety check, and start its pilot operation on Sunday, the broadcaster said.

According to the accord, the Mangyongbong will leave Rajin at 11:00 p.m. (Pyongyang Time), and arrive at Vladivostok the following morning after eight hours of sailing. Then the boat will depart at 4:00 p.m. and arrive at Rajin before dawn the following day, according to the media. The ship is scheduled to provide the service 10 times a month, it added.

Commissioned in 1971, the 102-meters-long, 14-meters-wide North Korean boat had originally sailed between the North's Wonsan and Japan's Niigata mainly to transport pro-Pyongyang Koreans residing in Japan who had wanted to live permanently in the communist country. The vessel reportedly has been remodeled of late to be used as a tour boat.

Japan has banned the ship's entry into its port since 2006 as sanctions on Pyongyang's first nuclear test and missile launches that year.

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