- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has arrived in Russia, where he will meet President Vladimir Putin.
- Kim travelled from North Korea to eastern Russia in his family’s bulletproof armoured train. Russian girls in costumes presented him with bread and salt – a traditional welcome for an honored guest.
- Kim and Putin are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program. Similar talks with US President Donald Trump broke down in March.
- Kim told Russian officials, according to The Associated Press: “I have heard a lot about your country and have long dreamt of visiting it.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in eastern Russia in his bulletproof armoured train on Wednesday, ahead of his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While it’s not clear where in North Korea he departed from, the journey was likely hundreds of miles.
Kim typically travels in and out of the country by his family’s train, which past footage has shown is filled with plush pink leather seats, Apple computers, and fine French wine.
The one time Kim travelled out of the country by plane – to meet US President Donald Trump in Singapore last June – he was ridiculed for his apparent reliance on China, since he borrowed the aircraft from the Chinese government.
Kim Jong-un's departure for Russia has just aired on North Korean TV pic.twitter.com/BPjTH3Y38T
— BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) April 24, 2019
North Korean state media on Wednesday aired footage of Kim boarding the train at an undisclosed station. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency speculated that Kim left from a rural area, rather than the capital of Pyongyang, according to The Associated Press.
At the train station, Kim walked down a red carpet to board his train. It pulled away as dozens of soldiers, government officials, and civilians saluted, clapped, and waved flowers to bid him goodbye. Kim’s departures from and arrivals in North Korea are typically full of this kind of pomp.
It’s not clear what time Kim left North Korea on Wednesday. The dark sky in the video suggests he started his journey early in the morning, as he has done on previous train journeys.
While Kim’s route was largely kept secret – as they are for all his foreign travels – he most likely travelled across the Druzhny Bridge, also known as the “Friendship Bridge,” which links Russia and North Korea. The bridge is reportedly closed to tourists.
Later Wednesday, Russia’s state-run Russia-24 TV channel aired footage of Kim’s arrival in Khasan, in eastern Russia. Getting off the train, Kim took off his black fedora and was welcomed by Russian girls in traditional clothing.
The North Korean leader was also presented with a loaf of round bread with salt on a tray – a traditional Russian welcome for a respected guest.
The recipient is supposed to eat the bread immediately, but Kim had the girls give it to North Korea’s consul general in the region instead, Russia-24 reported.
Meanwhile Russian TV is leading with Kim's arrival, where he received a traditional welcome of bread and salt. 2/ pic.twitter.com/1gFHd75h1B
— BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) April 24, 2019
Kim also answered questions from Russia-24 – a rare move by the reclusive leader, who previously never spoke with news outlets other than those run by the North Korean state.
If you've ever wondered what Kim Jong-un's everyday speaking voice is like, here you go. We only usually hear him giving a speech over a public address. pic.twitter.com/0zxKHpS2IG
— Alistair Coleman (@alistaircoleman) April 24, 2019
Kim met with Russian officials before setting off for the southeastern port city of Vladivostok, where he is due to meet Putin on Thursday.
According to the AP, Kim told Russian government officials on Wednesday: “I have heard a lot about your country and have long dreamt of visiting it.”
He added: “It’s been seven years since I took the helm, and I’ve only just managed to visit.”
He also said his father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, had a “great love for Russia.” A photo of him was displayed on the table during a meeting.
Notably absent from the train trip was Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who had accompanied Kim to both his summits with Trump and held a position in the country’s top decision-making body.
North Korea experts speculated that she was removed from her high-ranking position after she was left out of an important gathering earlier this month.
However, citing unnamed sources, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported that Kim Yo Jong left for Vladivostok a day earlier to prepare for the summit, suggesting she still has a role in her brother’s government.
At Vladivostok on Thursday, Kim and Putin are expected to focus on North Korea’s nuclear program and denuclearization, according to the Kremlin. Kim’s nuclear talks with Trump broke down in March.
Kim is also likely to court broader Russian investment in North Korea’s infrastructure and persuade Putin to side with him on easing international sanctions, Business Insider Rosie Perper’s reported.
Putin, through this summit, is most likely seeking to exert more influence in North Korean affairs, which could be seen as a move to rile the US.
Kim is likely to stay in Vladivostok until Friday, Yonhap reported. After his March summit with Trump in Vietnam, Kim stayed in the capital, Hanoi, for an extra day and toured its monuments before returning home.
Putin, meanwhile, leaves for Beijing on Friday for a conference on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to connect dozens of countries with Chinese-backed infrastructure projects.
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