- President Donald Trump seemed to hint on Monday that he would like to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the demilitarized zone dividing North Korea and South Korea.
- North Korea may not have a plane capable of taking Kim far overseas – and acknowledging that could be embarrassing for the country.
- But a meeting on the Korean Peninsula could avert such embarrassment for Kim.
President Donald Trump seemed to hint on Monday that he would like to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean Peninsula, the most heavily armed border in the world – and it may save Kim from embarrassment.
Kim has taken two international trips since becoming North Korea’s leader in 2011: to China last month (via train) and to South Korea on Friday.
Some experts told The Washington Post earlier in April that Kim may not have an aircraft capable of flying nonstop over long distances.
“We used to make fun of what they have – it’s old stuff,” Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst, told The Post. “We would joke about their old Soviet planes.”
Joseph Bermudez, an analyst at the US-based think tank 38 North, added, “They don’t have an aircraft that can fly across the Pacific – most are quite old.”
Sanctions have for decades weighed heavily on North Korea’s economy, and it has become difficult for Pyongyang to buy or maintain planes. Additionally, almost all of its aviation fuel comes from China, which has severely limited exports to the country.
The analysts suggested to The Post that stopping by another country mid-journey to refuel could highlight the limitations of North Korea’s aircraft – and, by extension, its struggle to keep up with technological advances.
Some aviation experts, however, think North Korea’s fleet may include aircraft that can safely make international trips.
Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-owned airline, has two Tupolev jets – similar to the Boeing 757 jetliner – with a 3,000-mile range, the aviation journalist Charles Kennedy told The Post, adding that they have an “excellent safety record.”
“In terms of his travelling anywhere, it would not be a problem – the South Koreans or the Swedes would give him a ride,” Victor Cha, a Korea analyst for MSNBC, told The Post. “But it would be embarrassing.”
Adding to the potential embarrassment, Kim has taken pains to show that he is a pilot, releasing photos and videos of him in planes through North Korean state media.
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