North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST

Hanoi — Vietnam is preparing for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to arrive by train for his summit in Hanoi next week with US President Donald Trump, two sources with direct knowledge of security and logistics planning say.

It could take Kim at least two and a half days to travel the thousands of kilometres through China by train, from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to Vietnam, meaning he would have to set off later this week in time for his planned February 25 arrival.

Kim’s train will stop at the Vietnamese border station of Dong Dang, where he will disembark and drive 170km to Hanoi by car, the sources said.

Trump and Kim will meet in the Vietnamese capital on February 27-28, eight months after an historic summit in Singapore in June, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, at which they pledged to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Negotiations have made little headway since then and there is growing expectation that this time they need to reach a more specific agreement.

Kim’s newly appointed nuclear negotiator, Kim Hyok Chol, arrived in Hanoi on Wednesday, a source with direct knowledge said.

Separately, three other sources with direct knowledge of the summit preparations told Reuters the preferred location for the meeting between the leaders is the Government Guesthouse, a colonial-era government building in central Hanoi.

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the summit organising committee on Tuesday that security during the summit was top priority, Vietnam’s government said on its website on Wednesday.

Asked whether Kim would meet President Xi Jinping on his way through the country, or for any other details of the trip, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said he was unaware of the situation.

“China and North Korea have a tradition of high-level mutual visits. As for the situation you mentioned, I have no grasp of it,” Geng told a daily news briefing. He did not elaborate.

Travel by train has been a favourite mode of transport for Kim,  his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung. North Korea experts have remarked on how Kim’s overseas visits, such as his state visit to China in January, are reminiscent of Kim Il-sung.

“[His father] Kim Jong-il was very reclusive. He didn’t like meeting foreign delegations, and he didn’t really enjoy going to foreign countries,” said Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain, who defected to South Korea in 2016, told media on Tuesday.

“But Kim Jong-un is a bit like Kim Il-sung. He really likes overseas activity,” said Thae.

Kim’s grandfather visited Vietnam twice, in 1958 and 1964.

In 1958, Kim Il-sung went from Pyongyang to Beijing by plane, then from Beijing to Guangzhou by train, then he appears to have crossed the border from China to Hanoi by aircraft, South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported on Tuesday citing archived Chinese media reports.

In 1964, Kim Il-sung visited Vietnam using a Vickers Viscount aircraft provided by China that was the personal plane of Mao Zedong’s second-in-command Lin Biao, Kyunghyang reported. 

Reuters