20110824 kim jong il russia
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il walk during a meeting in Russia. - 

Stacey Vanek-Smith: North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il is on a rare foreign trip to Russia. South Korea says it shows the North's willingness to consider new economic cooperation -- first and foremost, building a gas pipeline connecting South Korea to Russia.

Peter van Dyk reports from Moscow.

Peter van Dyk: Kim Jong-Il is afraid of flying so he rode his personal armored train across Siberia to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev. Stops to inspect a hydroelectric dam and a new pipeline pumping Russian oil to China are clues as to what the two leaders talked about: North Korea is in dire economic straits, and Moscow wants to expand its economic presence in Asia, near China. At the same time, Russia and other countries want North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program.

Fyodor Lukyanov is the editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. He says wielding an international political stick hasn't worked thus far -- So shifting to an economic carrot may be a better solution.

Fyodor Lukyanov: Russia is trying to look at North Korea not as a crazy rogue state but as a normal partner for a regional economic project.

Lukyanov says it is impossible to predict how Kim Jong-Il will react. He took four days to get to the meeting with Medvedev. Any movement on the Korean Peninsula is likely to be just as slow.

In Moscow, I'm Peter van Dyk for Marketplace.