This photo dated 23 Sept 2003 shows Russian far east cargo port of Vladivostok. With the amount of 120 000 containers per year the port of Vladivostok reached the level of the Soviet time turnover of goods. (MARINA SHATILOVA / AFP)
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - A new ferry between the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Russia docked for the first time at the Pacific port of Vladivostok on
The launch of the weekly service linking Vladivostok and the DPRK's port of Rajin came after DPRK test-fired a new type of ballistic missile on Sunday that landed in the sea near Russia.
The ferry's Russian operators say it is purely a commercial venture, but the service's launch coincides with what some experts say is a drive by the DPRK to build ties with Moscow.
The service is pitched at Chinese tourists wanting to travel by sea to the Pacific port of Vladivostok, according to the operators.
"It's our business, of our company, without any state subsidies, involvement and help," Mikhail Khmel, the deputy director of Investstroytrest, the Russia firm operating the ferry, told reporters.
Russia, especially the port of Vladivostok, is home to one of the
largest overseas communities of DPRK.
To date, there are no signs of a sustainable increase in trade between Russia and the DPRK, but Russia has taken a more benign stance towards Pyongyang that other major powers.
Speaking in Beijing this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was against DPRK's nuclear programme, but that the world should talk to Pyongyang instead of threatening it.
Asked about the ferry, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday she "didn't see a connection" between the new service and political issues.