(QHA) -

Russia and North Korea have discussed establishing a bilateral visa-free regime, Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka said, news agency Interfax reported on Tuesday.

The topic of easing visa restrictions for Russian businesspeople seeking to do business in North Korea was broached by Galushka and North Korean officials as part of a meeting of an intergovernmental commission in June in Vladivostok. The two countries hope to raise the level of interstate trade to $1 billion annually by 2020.

Russia under President Vladimir Putin has sporadically courted North Korea, which was heavily backed by the Soviet Union. Russia hopes to gain direct access to South Korean markets via a railway and natural gas pipeline.

These efforts have been accelerated as Moscow's relations with the West crumble amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and sanctions intended to punish Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

QHA