May 18, 2017 12:55 pm JST

North Korean ship arrives at Russia's Vladivostok

Regular ferry service begins amid rising tensions on Korean Peninsula

TAKAKI KASHIWABARA, Nikkei staff photographer

The Mangyongbong arrives at the Russian port of Vladivostok early in the morning of May 18 (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara).

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- A North Korean ferry arrived at the port here on Thursday morning, marking the start of a new phase in Russo-North Korean ties and raising international eyebrows.

The Mangyongbong, a cargo-passenger ferry, arrived at the port in Russia's Far East.

It is the first time that the Mangyongbong has visited the Russian port since the route between the port of Rajin, in northeastern North Korean, and Vladivostok was established to boost economic cooperation.

The Mangyongbong left Rajin on Wednesday night and arrived at Vladivostok around 8 the next morning. The aged ship, which used to ferry goods between Japan and North Korea, was fully renovated for the new route.

That it will regularly serve a route with Russia has drawn strong international criticism and comes as the U.S., China and other countries are stepping up pressure on North Korea over its repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The Japanese government has expressed concerns over the ferry service.

The Mangyongbong will shuttle between Rajin and Vladivostok once a week.

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