After more than five decades as an off-limits fortress in the Soviet Far East, Vladivostok opened its gates to foreigners Saturday, playing host to an international conference aimed at bringing the region into greater contact with its important Asian neighbors.

In a message to the conference from Moscow, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pledged the Kremlin was committed to removing "all invented and real curtains, iron, bamboo and any others" so that the Soviet Far East can join in political and economic dialogue with countries in the region.About 400 delegates from 35 countries, including Asian economic powers Japan and Singapore, are attending the meeting.