- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took a 2-1/2-day train trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, where he is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump for their second summit.
- Experts say his reasoning for taking such a slow means of transport may be to show he is not overly reliant on China.
- Kim took an Air China plane to his summit with Trump in Singapore in June, which led to commentary emphasising his inability to fly himself there.
- Those comments reportedly didn’t sit well with Kim.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is taking a 2,000-mile, 2-1/2-day train ride to meet US President Donald Trump in Vietnam this Wednesday, most likely to save face because he doesn’t want to ask China to lend him a plane.
Kim boarded his family’s armoured train at Pyongyang Station on Saturday evening, and he arrived in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on Tuesday morning, the day before his summit is scheduled there with Trump.
Kim left his train at Dong Dang, a Vietnamese town by the Chinese border, early Tuesday morning and travelled the last 105 miles or so to Hanoi by car.
— ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) February 26, 2019
According to INSIDER’s calculations, the trip spanned at least 2,000 miles.
Tracing Kim’s steps
Kim crossed into Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea, late Saturday, The Associated Press reported. The trip took him through southeastern China before eventually arrived in Vietnam.
He passed by the southeastern Chinese city of Hengyang around Monday afternoon local time, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Footage Japan’s TBS news channel showed Kim taking a cigarette break as the train took a quick stop in Nanning, southern China, before dawn on Tuesday. His sister, Kim Yo Jong, can be seen carrying a crystal ash tray for him.
‘Travelling by train is a forced choice’
While Kim’s laborious, three-day train ride undoubtedly gave him a good look at China’s cities and countryside, experts say his reason for the journey more likely has to do with pride than with tourism.
Last year, Kim borrowed a Boeing 747 plane from Air China, the airline majority-owned by the Chinese state, to get himself to Singapore in June for his first summit with Trump.
His 40-year-old, Soviet-made Ilyushin Il-62 plane was deemed unsafe for the voyage at the time.
Kim’s use of a Chinese plane last year highlighted his apparent reliance on Beijing, which didn’t have any delegates at Singapore but saw its global vision dominant at the summit.
The North Korean leader did not appreciate remarks about his reliance on China last year, Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Beijing’s Renmin University, told The New York Times.
“He does not want to show the world his heavy reliance on China by waving his hand in front of China’s national flag on a Chinese plane as he did at the Singapore airport,” Cheng told The Times.
“Travelling by train is a forced choice.”
It’s not clear what mode of transport Kim will take home.
Trump has characterised the coming summit as a follow-up to the leaders’ meeting in June, when Kim made a vague pledge to work toward denuclearization. Pyongyang appears not to have made much progress on that front.
US intelligence and North Korea experts have warned that Pyongyang is unlikely to give up its nuclear arms. An intelligence report published last month reiterated the idea that the country’s leaders view nuclear arms as “critical to regime survival.”
Trump has repeatedly played down hopes for any new breakthroughs with North Korea, and he told the Governors’ Ball on Sunday that he was “not pushing for speed” with North Korea’s denuclearization.
“I’m not in a rush,” he said. “I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”
He added that US sanctions on North Korea would remain for the time being. Beijing for months has been urging the United Nations to relax some of its sanctions on North Korea.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post suggested the train ride would last three-and-a-half days, rather than the two-and-a-half it ultimately took.
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