July 2 (UPI) -- A freight rail line connecting North Korea, China and Russia has begun trial runs, according to a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
Jilin Province Northeast Asia Maritime Silk Road International Shipping Co. said on its proprietary website a train carrying six containers left from the city of Hunchun last Friday, arriving an hour later at a train station in the Russian Far East, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Thursday.
The train then left Russia via a branch line in Khasan, Russia, arriving at the last stop, the Tumen River Station in North Korea on Monday afternoon, the Chinese agency said.
"This trial run was carried out with the active support and under the guidance of the Moscow state headquarters of the ministry of railways of the Russian Federation and the Korean State Railway" of the Ministry of Railways of North Korea, the provincial agency said.
The Chinese state-owned firm said the trial run showed improvements in transportation efficiency and met the objective of lowering logistics costs.
Jilin Shipping said the plan is to "further increase the potential of the route," as well as to "increase the types of cargo, and two-way transportation." The Chinese agency added China and North Korea are to "study the possibility of operating refrigerator cars" across the border within the scope of "policies and regulations."
China is North Korea's No. 1 trading partner, but cross-border exchange declined dramatically following the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in January.
North Korea could be preparing to fight drought, an increasing problem that exacerbates food shortages in the country.
Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Thursday workers must do their utmost "to prevent damage from floods, wind and rain." North Korea's agriculture ministry also said a successful crop depends on the rainy season, according to North Korean state media.