Russia Opens North Korean Rail Link For ‘iron Silk Road’

Will Canada, Russia miss out on 2014 FIBA World Cup?

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Russia is worried it will be flooded by European goods if Ukraine removes import duties with the EU under agreements likely to be signed in November, but also fears Kiev is making a pivotal shift away from Moscow. “This is Ukraine’s choice and we have to respect it, but at the same time money has to be taken into account,” First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit. “If they have a stronger economy, it will be a plus, but only if it is not achieved by making us weaker.” He denied Moscow was putting pressure on Kiev or drawing up plans to retaliate. But he also said Russia would have to act “if there is evidence of dumping or the use of hidden forms (of protectionism) such as support for exports, support for agricultural producers”. Shuvalov’s remarks made clear Moscow had not been appeased by Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who tried on Saturday to soothe Russian fears over planned agreements with the EU on political association and free trade. Azarov says Ukraine, whose economy is dominated by exports such as steel, chemicals and agricultural produce, would benefit almost immediately from lower duties on Ukrainian exports. Russian officials, led by President Vladimir Putin, say Ukraine has more to gain from joining a Customs Union grouping Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Moscow is also holding out against Ukraine’s pleas for cheaper Russian gas to help its hard-pressed economy. Moscow’s efforts to persuade Kiev not to move closer to the EU form part of a broader drive by Russia to deter former Soviet allies from edging out of its orbit and moving their economy and future trade towards western Europe. But Ukraine, a vast country with a population of 45 million and psychologically tied closely to Russia by history and shared culture, is the sorest point of contention. Shuvalov has played an important role in this drive in his government role overseeing relations with the former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). He said the Russia-led customs union would not suffer if Ukraine did not join, but its accession would create a trading bloc with a population of about 200 million.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov takes part in the Reuters Investment Summit in Moscow September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

With nearly just as many people playing basketball in China as there are people in the USA, it makes sense for FIBA to bring China to Spain, and China is willing to pay the fee. Canada is an option, too. As the country develops its young talent (Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Andrew Nicholson, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk among others) and becomes more competitive on the international scene, playing in the World Cup is important for Canada’s future. However, 500,000 approximately $675,000 gives Canada reason to consider the value of that investment. Brazil didn’t finish in the top four at FIBA Americas Championship and missed out on one of the automatic bids. As host of the 2016 Olympics, Brazil needs the experience if its wants to make a run at a medal on its home court in three years. The exposure is important, too. There is no shortage of options in Europe, from Russia, which entered Eurobasket in turmoil (its coach quit a month before event began) and didn’t have its best players, to Greece to Turkey to Italy. Russia seems the most likely of those countries to pay big dollars for inclusion, and it won silver in London last summer. Oddly, Nigeria, which finished a disappointing seventh at Afrobasket, is interested in playing in the World Cup. However, can it come up with the money, and does FIBA want a team which finished so low in Africa, playing in the World Cup? Nigeria played in the 2012 London Olympics and finished 10th with just one victory. Either way, the USA, which won the 2010 world championship and gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, will enter as the favorite. The USA will learn its opponents for group play at the World Cup draw Feb.

The top executives of both countries state train operators inaugurated a route today that links the North Korean port city of Rajin with the Russian border town of Khasan. Initially, the 54-kilometer (33-mile) line will transport Russian coal to markets in the Asia-Pacific region, OAO Russian Railways Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Yakunin said at the ceremony in Rajin. The second phase of the project will involve the construction of a container-handling facility and potentially an oil terminal at the North Korean site, he said. Our common objective is for this link and port to be a pilot scheme for the restoration of a single transport system in North and South Korea that would link the peninsula to countries that gravitate to this region, to Europe via Russia, Yakunin said. The CEO said he hopes the plan will help promote peace between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war following the conflict 1950-53 that divided the countries. The route is part of a larger project, dubbed the Iron Silk Road, that would connect Russia s Trans-Siberian Railway to South Korea via the North for an overland route cutting transportation costs to Europe. Success depends on improved ties between South Korea and its isolated Communist neighbor. Reunions Scrapped North Korea canceled plans today for reunions this week of families separated by the division of the peninsula, and accused South Korean leaders of throwing obstacles in the way of reconciliation. The North also put off talks on resuming tours by South Koreans to its Mount Geumgang resort after recent weeks of improved relations between the two sides. Kim Jong Uns regime accused the South of seeking confrontation, and threatened strong and decisive retaliation against any military provocation. The Khasan-Rajin rail link will carry 100,000 freight containers a year, the Norths official Korean Central News Agency reported in April 2012. The freight terminal at Rajin will be able to handle 4 million tons a year of coal, Yakunin said today, including shipments for OAO Mechel , Russias biggest supplier of the material for steelmakers.