- Kim Jong Un returned home to a hero’s welcome from his 60-hour train ride from Vietnam after his summit with President Donald Trump.
- He arrived in Pyongyang at 3 a.m. on Tuesday and walked down a long red carpet flanked by dozens of soldiers and cheering citizens.
- He began his long train ride home – from Hanoi to Pyongyang via China’s east coast – on Saturday.
- Trump went home on Thursday when negotiations with Kim hit a roadblock, but the North Korean leader stayed behind.
- As US flags were taken down in Hanoi, Kim enjoyed two days of pomp and ceremony in the Vietnamese capital.
Kim Jong Un has returned home to Pyongyang from his two-and-a-half-day, 2,000-mile train ride home from his summit with President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The North Korean leader got back into his personal train, which is bulletproof and kitted out with luxury fittings, at Dong Dang station on the China-Vietnam border at around 1 p.m. local time Saturday.
Footage aired on state TV, published by BBC Monitoring, showed Kim arriving in Pyongyang at 3 a.m. local time on Tuesday and walking down a long red carpet flanked by dozens of soldiers and cheering civilians clutching flowers.
He can also be seen accepting bouquets from two young girls before crouching down to hug and chat to them.
North Korean state TV coverage of Kim Jong-un's 3am return to Pyongyang after his meeting with President Trump and Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi pic.twitter.com/mYiXF0f3o5
— BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) March 5, 2019
Kim’s precise route home was a secret. It was likely to be the mirror-image of his journey to the summit, which took him through parts of southern and eastern China, the most direct land route between North Korea and Vietnam.
Kim’s extended state trip to Vietnam
Kim had stayed in Vietnam for two extra days after his summit with Trump came to an abrupt end on Thursday. The two leaders had reached an stalemate on plans to denuclearize North Korea in exchange for sanctions relief.
While Kim’s main purpose was the Trump summit, he also spent several days making a state visit to Vietnam. Trump also met with Vietnam’s president and prime minister for a few hours on Wednesday.
Trump boarded Air Force One and flew home after a hastily-assembled press conference to close the summit on Thursday. Kim continued his trip.
On Friday, Kim enjoyed a day of pomp and state ceremony. According to The Associated Press (AP), he met and warmly embraced President Nguyen Phu Trong of Vietnam that day.
The AP described Kim riding through Hanoi in an armoured limousine, and accepting a bouquet of flowers from a Vietnamese girl.
The report added that when Trump left, officials removed most of the US flags festooning the city, leaving behind rows of Vietnamese and North Korean flags.
Before taking the train home on Saturday, Kim laid red-and-yellow wreaths at a Vietnamese war memorial, and at the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese national hero who led the country against French colonization. Ho was also the leader of North Vietnam at the start of the country’s war against the US.
Kim’s visit to Ho’s mausoleum could be a way to bring himself closer to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the founder of the communist North Korea. The elder Kim met Ho in Vietnam decades ago.
What summit failure?
North Korean state media – the main type of media in the country – has ignored the fact that the Trump-Kim summit ended early and without a deal, opting instead to call it “extraordinary” and “successful.” It also emphasised Kim’s standing as Trump’s equal.
The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper also reported that while Kim was away, its citizens had trouble sleeping, with one woman telling a state broadcaster that she “really missed” the leader,according to the BBC.
It’s not unusual for North Korean state media to avoid negative press coverage of its leader, as it wants to make sure Kim looks good before airing anything.
The country also did not say why Kim chose an extremely long train journey instead of flying, which would take around four hours.
A possible reason is that Kim does not have a functioning plane of his own (his ageing Soviet Ilyushin Il-62 needs repairs), and is reluctant to ask China for one.
For his 2018 summit with Trump in Singapore, Kim borrowed a plane from Air China, inviting unflattering commentary on his reliance on the Chinese government to get around.
A contrary theory is that Kim’s long journey through China could emphasise his fondness for the country.
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