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N. Korean leader starts Russian tour

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il traveled by train to Russia Saturday on a weeklong visit that includes meetings with Russia's president and prime minister.

South Korean intelligence officials in Seoul said the 70-year-old leader and his entourage traveled to the eastern city of Khasan and would continue on to eastern Siberia's third-largest city Ulan Ude on Tuesday, the Yonhap news agency reported.

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Intelligence officials said Kim was scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin there later in the week.

Alongside China, Russia is one of North Korea's largest political allies and both have been instrumental in deflecting international attempts at reining in its nuclear power and weapons development.

South Korean political analysts said it didn't appear Kim took his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, on the diplomatic mission. Kim recently visited China without his son, the report said.

Kim's tour comes as the United States and South Korea are set to begin a joint computer simulation military exercise Tuesday.

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