North Korea is ready to resume stalled nuclear talks, to halt nuclear arms testing and to build a gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea across its territory, the country's leader Kim Jong Il told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday.

Following the two leaders' talks at a military base near Ulan Ude in Eastern Siberia, Mr. Medvedev's press secretary said North Korea has agreed to resume six-nation talks on its nuclear programme without preconditions.

“In the course of the talks North Korea will be prepared to impose a moratorium on the production of nuclear weapons and their testing,” Natalya Timakova told reporters.

The negotiations, involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, broke off two years ago after North Korea tested a long-range missile.

Russia and North Korea also agreed to draft a deal for the construction of a natural gas pipeline linking the two countries and South Korea.

“We have given instructions to our governments to set up a special commission to define the parameters of our bilateral cooperation in transporting gas across the territory of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea,” said Mr. Medvedev after his talks with Mr. Kim. “As I understand it, DPRK is interested in implementation of this triangular project with Russia and South Korea.”

Russia has long lobbied North Korea for building a 1100-km pipeline which will carry up to 10 billion cubic metres of gas to South Korea and yield an estimated $100 million in transit fees for Pyongyang.

The North Korean leader arrived in Russia in his special train on August 20 and has visited Lake Baikal and other places of interest in Eastern Siberia.

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