North Korea and Russia to Renew Strategic Ties

North Korean leader Kim Jon II and Russian President Vladimir Putin ended summit talks Saturday by signing a manifesto that calls for the renewal of strategic ties between the two nations.

They also denounced the U.S. missile defense program at the Kremlin meeting.

The Moscow Declaration was full of Cold-War era language and indirect criticism of the United States — but it contained no surprises. The two leaders issued a similar statement when they met in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in July 2000.

Before their meeting, their first on Russian soil, the 59-year-old North Korean dictator visited Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin's tomb on Red Square, becoming the first world leader to do so since the Soviet Union disintegrated a decade ago.

Kim arrived in Moscow late Friday night after a nine-day train trip of more than nearly 4,000 miles across Russia's expanse that has been cloaked in secrecy and tight security.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday criticized security arrangements for Kim as "something that took place only in the times of (Soviet dictator Josef) Stalin," in remarks broadcast on Russian television.

Relations between the two former ideological allies were frayed by Moscow's establishment of ties with pro-Western South Korea in 1990 and by the Soviet Union's collapse the following year.

Putin has courted European leaders and pursued pro-market economic policies since his election last year. But he is also reviving ties with Soviet-era allies such as North Korea and Iraq, in seeking to restore some of Moscow's lost global clout.

Russia and North Korea, along with China, oppose Washington's missile defense program. The United States says it needs the system to guard against threats from "rogue" countries such as North Korea and Iraq.

In the declaration, North Korea claimed that its missile program is "peaceful" and poses no threat to any country that respects its sovereignty.

North Korea confirmed its plan to continue missile development but vowed to observe a promised missile test moratorium until 2003. Kim announced the 2003 moratorium during his meeting with Putin last year.

The CIA believes the communist country has the capability to develop a long-range missile that can reach the western edges of the United States, Hawaii and Alaska.

Washington needs Moscow's consent to revise or abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which its anti-missile program would violate. The U.S. work on missile defense may conflict with the ABM treaty as early as this winter.

Russia strongly opposes amending the treaty.

"The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is the cornerstone of strategic stability and the foundation of further reduction of strategic offensive arms," the document said.

It gave no clue to whether North Korea is willing to reopen talks with the United States anytime soon. North Korea has yet to respond officially to President Bush's offer of dialogue on June 6.

North Korea instead renewed its demand for an end to the U.S. military presence in South Korea. About 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against military threats from the North.

Saturday's meeting also appeared aimed at economic cooperation.

Russia promised to help rebuild dilapidated power and other industrial plants in North Korea built with Soviet support and technology. But it indicated that its support would be linked to North Korea's settlement of debts to Moscow, estimated at $5.5 billion.

The declaration also said the two countries will closely work together on linking Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway with the rail systems of the two Koreas, which could dramatically boost Asia-Europe trade across Russian territory. This project, it said, "is entering a stage of active development."

Russia expressed hope that a stalled inter-Korea dialogue will resume and offered to play a mediating role. Inter-Korean exchanges that thrived after the first-ever summit of their leaders last year have come to a virtual standstill because of U.S.-North Korean tensions.

The Russia trip was Kim's first as president and his third abroad since he took power after his father died in 1994. He has visited China twice.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.