Kim Jong-Il is preparing for a visit with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev this week, where the two are expected discuss an international gas pipeline between the two countries.
The North Korean leader was welcomed in the city of Nvoburesky in Russia's Far East on Sunday, where he arrived on a bullet-proof train. Kim toured one of Russia's largest hydroelectric power plants, then began a trip to Siberia, where he will meet with Medvedev.
The last time Kim visited Russia was in 2002. The aging statesman has made few visits since he suffered an illness in 2008, although he still makes biannual visits to China, North Korea's closest ally.
Currently, Russia and North Korea are in the midst of negotiations concerning a pipeline that Russia thinks could pull North Korea out of economic isolation, perhaps the beginning of the end to a dire humanitarian situation.
One has to be careful not to be encouraged because the North Korean regime is a very unusual one, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, told the Wall Street Journal. Russia does have a proposal that could change the atmosphere of the region. But right now it's very hypothetical.
The proposed pipeline will send 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia through North Korea and finally into South Korea. While Russia hopes the project will ameliorate East Asian relations, tension between North and South Korea has again raised, and an agreement on the pipeline will not likely be reached.
On Monday, North Korea seized the Mount Kumgang resort, which was on North Korea soil, but jointly operated by both nations. Mt. Kumgang was opened to South Korean tourists in 1998 and was seen as a symbol of improving relations between the former-enemies.
South Koreans haven't been able to access the resort since 2008, and now North Korea says their southern neighbor has 72 hours to completely leave the area before all of its assets go up for auction.
We consider that the South has completely given up all rights on properties owned by South Korean companies and now start legal disposal of them, North Korea state news-agency KCNA said in a statement.