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Russian tourists reportedly going on a ski trip to North Korea will be the first international travelers to visit the country since border closings in January 2020 amid the global pandemic lockdown.

The tour, published by the Russian state-run Tass news agency and advertised by a Russian tour agency this week, underscores deepening cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang. It follows the meeting last September between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.

The trip scheduled for February was a surprise to Asia observers, who had expected the first post-pandemic tourists to North Korea to come from China, the North’s biggest diplomatic ally and economic pipeline.

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