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N. Korea sticks to missile pledge

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has said his country intends to observe the moratorium on long-range missile testing until 2003.

Two years ago, North Korea agreed with the United States to stop testing long-range missiles until 2003 in exchange for the U.S. lifting some economic sanctions on North Korea.

The announcement was made during negotiations with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, by the deputy head of the Russian president's administration, Sergei Prikhodko. It followed the signing in Moscow of a memoradum between Russia and North Korea.

Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty which the U.S. is currently trying to amend in order to proceed with the testing of a missile defence system.

The Kremlin aide said negotiations also touched on the issues of strategic stability, trade and economic issues and international issues.

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CNN's Steve Harrigan reports on the North Korean leader's stopover in Omsk, Russia en route to Moscow

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Washington says its missile defence system is planned to protect it from attacks from what it calls "rogue states" like North Korea. Russia and China are key opponents of the plan, saying it could lead to a new arms race.

A key part of the Moscow Declaration signed by Kim and Putin on Saturday insisted that Washington's fears were groundless.

"North Korea asserts that its missile programme is peaceful in nature and does not present a threat to nations respecting North Korea's sovereignty," RIA news agency quoted the declaration as saying.

"The Russian Federation and North Korea, recognising that international relations should consistently guarantee independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, support the right of every state to the same degree of safety," RIA quoted the pact as saying.

Before his meeting with Putin at the Kremlin, Kim laid wreaths at the Lenin mausoleum on Red Square and the adjacent Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, ITAR-Tass news agency said.

He was the first foreign head of state to lay wreath at the mausoleum in the post-Soviet era.

Words on the wreath said “Kim Jong Il - Vladimir Lenin” in Korean script.

Kim arrived in Moscow late on Friday after a marathon nine-day trip across Russia from Pyongyang in a private bulletproof train.

His trip has been shrouded in secrecy and tight security.

Like his father, the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung who is idolised as a virtual god in the country, the younger Kim is rumoured to have a severe fear of flying.

Before the talks, Putin said he was pleased that Kim had finally arrived in the Russian capital.

“You have done the same thing as your father once did,” Putin told Kim, adding that he had seen more of Russia during his journey than many Russian politicians.

Strengthened ties

Kim said he was looking forward to the meeting and said the Moscow Declaration would strengthen ties and renew understanding between the former communist allies.

Putin and Kim were expected to meet twice -- initially for a one-on-one session, then for a later meeting when they will be joined by aides.

Topping the agenda for talks between the two leaders is expected to be North Korean requests for Russian assistance in modernising the country's outdated industry.

North Korea has been relying on outside aid to feed its 22 million people since 1994 and Kim is under intense pressure to deliver results in rebuilding his country's tattered economy.

Aid in developing North Korea's rail network is also up for discussion -- a subject that is obviously close to Kim's heart.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who met North Korean Vice Premier Cho Chang Dok shortly after Kim's arrival, said the two sides planned to talk over a proposed link up of North Korea's rail network with the trans-Siberian line.

If plans for an inter-Korean rail link go ahead that could open the way to direct rail services between South Korea and Europe.

"This project is being finalised in Moscow," Klebanov was quoted as saying.

Russian aid

Train
Kim made the journey in a private 21-car bulletproof train  

The Russian news agency ITAR-Tass said the two leaders would sign a memorandum of understanding granting Russian assistance in the modernisation of four thermal power plants and a steel mill in North Korea.

An agreement on substantial sales of Russian arms and other military hardware to Pyongyang is also expected to be inked.

After meeting Putin, Kim is expected to travel on to the former Imperial capital of St Petersburg, before making the long journey back home, once again by rail.






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• KCNA -- North Korean state news agency

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