Recount of N.K. Leader Kim Jong Un's arrival to Hanoi, Vietnam

Roger Stelenski, Feb. 27, 2019, 9:48 a.m.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday, a day ahead of his scheduled summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kim's train ride through China took 66 hours and was a replay of trips his grandfather and nation founder Kim Il-sung made to Vietnam in 1958 and 1964.

Vietnam is only the fourth foreign country Kim has visited since he came to power in 2012.

Kim's train arrived at Dong Dang railway station on the Vietnamese side of the border at 8:15 a.m. His sister Yo-jong, who is in charge of his personal security, stepped off the train first to make sure the coast was clear.

Kim himself, dressed in a black Mao suit, then heaved his celebrated bulk off the train and walked down a red carpet to be greeted by senior Vietnamese apparatchiks.

After reportedly uttering the immortal words, "Glad to meet you. I am happy to make this visit and I sincerely thank Vietnam," he was serenaded by a military band while throngs of Vietnamese people waved the flags of the two countries.

But he swiftly got into his armored Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard and waved at the crowd while 12 North Korean bodyguards who had been waiting at the station since early morning formed a wall on both sides of the limousine as it moved along.

A delegation of other top North Korean officials followed in other cars.

Traveling the 4,500 km through China, Kim had stopped several times for breaks. Japanese news media captured him smoking a cigarette at Nanning railway station in southern China while his sister reverently carried an ashtray with both hands to receive the august droppings.

The special armored train he inherited from his father, who had a phobia about flying, was pulled through China by a Chinese locomotive, so once again he had to rely on China's help to take him to his summit destination.

For last year's summit, Beijing had to provide an airplane.

From Dong Dang, Kim's motorcade drove straight to Hanoi surrounded by heavy security, covering the 170 km in just two-and-a-half hours.

All car and pedestrian traffic was blocked within a 100-m radius of the Meliá Hanoi hotel where he is staying, but hundreds of Vietnamese nevertheless flocked to the streets to catch a glimpse of the North Korean leader.

Children at one school in Hanoi cheered out of their classroom windows when Kim’s limousine passed by.

Kim arrived at the Meliá at around 11 a.m. and headed up to the presidential suite on the 22nd floor. He then had lunch and rested before preparing for his summit with Trump the following day.

At around 5 p.m., Kim paid a visit to the North Korean Embassy 1.2 km from the hotel, accompanied by his right-hand man Kim Yong-chol and Kim Yo-jong. Loud cheers could be heard from inside the embassy, and 50 minutes later he left and went back to the hotel.

His train, meanwhile, was spotted heading back to China, raising speculation that he may fly to Guangzhou or Beijing after the summit.

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