North Korea's Kim reported en route to Vietnam summit with Trump

North Korea's Kim reported en route to Vietnam summit with Trump

Kerry Wise
February 24, 2019

Mr. Kim made the rare personal comments to Mike Pompeo during a visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in April a year ago to lay the groundwork for the historic first summit between the North's leader and U.S. President Donald Trump in June in Singapore, former CIA official Andrew Kim said, South Korea's Yonhap news agency and the Wall Street Journal reported.

Russia's TASS news agency reported hours earlier that Kim departed from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on his personal train.

Kim left the North Korean capital of Pyongyang at around 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) in an armoured train, TASS said, citing a North Korean diplomatic source.

Vietnam's Foreign Ministry also announced on Saturday that Kim will pay an official goodwill visit to Vietnam "in the coming days" in response to an invitation by President Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also the general secretary of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party.

The second summit in Hanoi takes place following the historic meeting in Singapore last June where Kim and Trump reached a vaguely worded commitment from North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapon program.

Several sources told the AFP news agency that Kim was expected to arrive in Vietnam by train, stopping at the Dong Dang train station near the China border, then driving to Hanoi. Kim will travel at least two-and-a-half days by train through China.

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"It sends a strong message to North Koreans that Kim Jong Un has inherited his grandfather's good qualities, and the Kim Dynasty is stronger than ever", Koh Yu-hwan, professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said.

Two sources with direct knowledge of security and logistics planning told Reuters on Wednesday that Vietnam was preparing for Kim to arrive by train.

Vietnamese police have stepped up security around the border station. China has declined to answer questions about Kim's travel plans via the country.

Still, a journey from China's frozen northern border to subtropical Vietnam would present a logistical headache and complex security challenges.

Kim travelled to Singapore by plane on loan from China.

Justin Hastings, associate professor in global relations at the University of Sydney, said that would be "a pretty major operation". While North Korea has repeatedly demanded that the United States take corresponding measures, including sanctions relief, Washington has called for more concrete steps from Pyongyang toward denuclearization.