Russia stages mock emergency exercise near N. Korea border.

Russia Friday held a mock emergency exercise near its border with North Korea in a simulation of a massive refugee influx that might follow an environmental disaster.

The simulation was part of massive military exercises currently under way in Russia's Far East and came ahead of next week's six-way talks aimed at resolving the current stand-off over North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions.

Russia is due to participate in the crucial talks, which are to run from August 27 to 29 in Beijing and are also to include North and South Korea, China, Japan and the United States.

As part of Friday's exercise, Russian authorities built a mock border crossing some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from its actual border with North Korea and established checkpoints for chemical and radiation control.

The deputy governor of the Primorye region, Oleg Melnikov, told reporters on Tuesday that "the region is ready in the event of an emergency to take in up to 100,000 refugees from North Korea."

Next week's talks in Beijing mark Russia's first official appearance at international negotiations over Washington's nuclear stand-off with Pyongyang.

The latest North Korean crisis erupted in October when Washington accused the Stalinist state of reneging on a 1994 bilateral nuclear freeze accord by setting up a clandestine program based on enriched uranium.

Washington believes North Korea has extracted enough weapons-grade plutonium for about two nuclear bombs before it froze its Yongbyon plant.

[Source: PDT.net, Vladivostok, Russia, 22Aug03]

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