TOKYO – In a rare foreign visit confirmed by Pyongyang’s state-run media, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on Saturday arrived via armored train in Russia, where he will discuss economic projects and meet with President Dmitry Medvedev.

A Kremlin statement described the upcoming summit between the leaders as the “main event” during Kim’s trip to the eastern and Siberian regions.

The trip comes at a time when the Stalinist dictatorship is both pushing for aid and facing international pressure to resume nuclear talks, suspended since early 2009.

Kim’s train passed into Russia on Saturday morning near the border town of Khasan. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing a government source in Seoul, said that Kim would meet with Medvedev on Tuesday in Ulan Ude, a Siberian town several hundred miles northwest of Vladivostok.

Kim, who has a fear of flying, has twice visited Russia since coming to power, traveling exclusively by train. In his 2002 visit, Kim held talks with then-President Vladimir Putin.

Kim’s more recent travel has taken place exclusively in China, with three trips there since May 2003.

Kim’s trip, Pyongyang said, came at the invitation of Medvedev, whose government in recent weeks has pushed North Korea to cooperate on plans to connect a railway and a gas pipeline that would run from Russia through the divided Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has remained largely a no-go zone for massive foreign projects, with outside economic investment allowed only in special development zones. But if North Korea goes along with the gas pipeline project — in which Russian exporter Gazprom will annually send 10 billion cubic meters of gas to South Korea for three decades — it stands to collect handling fees. It would also allow the North a measure of influence in Seoul’s economy.

One major South Korean newspaper, the Joongang Daily, in an editorial Saturday described North Korea’s apparent support for the plan as “a calculation to add to its increasing portfolio of potential hostage issues for times when inter-Korean relations chill.”