HANOI - North Korea’s state-run media on Sunday broke the silence on this week’s meeting between leader Kim Jong Un’s and U.S. President Donald Trump, reporting that Kim had departed for the second summit between the two countries.
Kim left Pyongyang by special train on Saturday afternoon, the Korean Central News Agency said in a report early Sunday. His sister and close aide, Kim Yo Jong, and Kim Yong Chol, a senior ruling party official who held talks with Trump last month, were among those accompanying Kim, it said.
Other senior North Korean officials, such as de facto chief of staff Kim Chang Son and Kim Hyok Chol, the negotiations counterpart to U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, were already in Hanoi to prepare for the summit.
If Kim travels all the way to Vietnam by train, the journey of thousands of kilometers through China could take at least 2½ days. Beijing has given no details of Kim’s trip through China.
Travel by train has been a favorite mode of transport for Kim, as it was for his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung. When Kim Il Sung visited Hanoi in 1958, he traveled from Pyongyang to Beijing and then southern Guangzhou by train, finally flying to Hanoi in an aircraft provided by China.
In his meeting with Trump, experts say, Kim will seek a U.S. commitment for improved bilateral relations and partial sanctions relief while trying to minimize any concessions on his nuclear facilities and weapons.
While Kim wants to leverage his nuclear and missile program for economic and security benefits, there continue to be doubts on whether he’s ready to fully deal away an arsenal that he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi. A train apparently carrying Kim crossed the border into China via the city of Dandong late Saturday night.
The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said Saturday that Kim will make an official goodwill visit to Vietnam but did not mention the dates and itinerary of his trip.
According to a tweet by the ministry, Kim will be visiting at the invitation of President Nguyen Phu Trong. Kim and Trong are expected to hold talks during Kim’s visit.
Kim’s train will reportedly take him to the Vietnamese border station of Dong Dang, after which he will proceed by car to Hanoi, with local authorities planning to close the stretch of road on which he will travel to the capital.
Kim will be the first North Korean leader to visit Vietnam since Kim Il Sung did so in 1964.