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N. Korea interested in leasing farmland in Russian Far East
JANUARY 31, 2012 04:50  
The Russian government is mulling the lease of abandoned farmland in Russian Far East to foreigners in a plan that could be officially announced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in September.

New North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is known to have expressed keen interest in leasing Russian farmland, inviting the governor of the Russian province of Primorsky Krai to Pyongyang.

The Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta said Monday that millions of hectares in Russian Far East will soon be leased to foreigners on long-term contracts. Russia`s Economic Development Ministry reported this plan to the Russian Federation to be addressed in the APEC summit in Vladivostok in September.

Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepa said, 밯e`ve been preparing since summer last year for plans to develop Russian Far East and east-west Siberia for their announcement at the APEC summit. We have 20 agricultural investment items to offer to Asia-Pacific countries.

If the federation approves the plan, the next Russian president will officially declare it at the summit.

Areas for lease include Primorsky Krai, Amur and Khabarovsk. Russia뭩 Institute of World Economy and International Relations said the farmland cultivation rate in the three areas are under 50 percent and eligible for cultivating rice and beans, adding that global warming will boost their agricultural production 11-14 percent over the next 50 years.

The leasing costs are known to have a symbolic meaning. Klepa said leasing will be made for at least five years with no legal obstacles standing, adding, 밒nvestors from Vietnam, Singapore, Japan and Thailand are showing deep interest.

North Korea is also showing keen interest. Pyongyang said in September last year that it will lease hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland in Russian Far East to create a large farm complex producing grain and vegetables.

밡orth Korea hopes to lease farmland in Amur, Klepa said. The PR division of Primorsky Krai said last week that Kim Jong Un invited Gov. Sergey Darkin to Pyongyang.

The plan has produced mixed responses within Russia. Supporters call it a creative plan that will boost the development of the stagnant Russian Far East area.

A researcher at the Far East branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences said, 밫he plan serves as an advantage for both sides as the Far East area that has been suffering from severe labor shortage can use surplus labor of Asia Pacific region. Opponents say, however, that the region could be dominated by foreign immigrants while environment pollution can be rampant.

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