Russia's Vladimir Putin Eyeing Closer Ties with North Korea's Kim Jong-un
A combination photo of Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-unReuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking to boost bilateral trade with one of the most isolated countries in the word, North Korea.

By 2020, Moscow intends to increase annual trade with North Korea to $1bn, Russia's Far East Development Ministry has said.

This is part of the latest initiatives by Moscow to look for opportunities in Asian nations to beat the recently-imposed Western sanctions over its annexation of Crimea.

Senior Russian delegates have visited the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial complex, a special economic zone between the two Koreas, to explore opportunities for launching Russian businesses there.

Alexander Galushka, Russia's Far East Development Minister, conducted a five-day visit to the joint-Korean industrial park and held talks with North Korean counterparts. The visit was timed to mark the 65th anniversary of a cooperation agreement between the Soviet Union and North Korea, according to an official statement from the Russian ministry.

The North Korean business delegation was led by the country's Minister of Foreign Trade, Ri Ryong.

During the visit, the two sides agreed on a spate of measures including the settlement of payments in rouble and easing visa procedures to facilitate easier access for Russian companies to start business in the Kaesong complex.

Moscow was, however, cautious and warned the situation in the Korean Peninsula should remain stable for the bilateral trade to thrive.

Among areas identified for potential cooperation were Pyongyang's mining, automobile and electricity sectors.

It was also reported that South Korea's Trade Investment Promotion Agency said Pyongyang recently imported Russian-made heavy equipment for unloading cargo in dockyards.

The two countries, which are undergoing testing times – military tension in the Korean Peninsula and unrest over Crimean annexation – are said to be bolstering political ties as well.

Members from the Russian Communist Party were welcomed last week in Pyongyang by the Workers Party Secretary Kim Yong-il, who reportedly said the relationship between the two countries was "entering a high level".

Business delegates from the two sides are to hold the next round of talks in June in Vladivostok.