North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s armored train chugged across China on Sunday as he headed to his highly anticipated second summit with US President Donald Trump in Vietnam.
Emulating his late father and grandfather, who took epic train trips when they were leaders, Kim set off on the long journey from Pyongyang railway station on Saturday, with a military honour guard seeing him off.
His departure was confirmed by the North’s official KCNA news agency, with images showing citizens cheering him as he waved from the train before what could be a 60-hour journey to Vietnam.
The train crossed the border city of Dandong later that day, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and the specialist outlet NK News, but its route remained a tightly-held secret.
The train’s crossing into China follows days of speculation over Kim’s travel plans, as his team gathered in Hanoi ahead of the talks expected next Wednesday and Thursday.
Accompanying the North Korean leader was right-hand man and top general Kim Yong Chol, who met Trump at the White House last month, his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong, and other high-ranking officials, KCNA said.
Ahead of his own departure for Hanoi, Trump said Sunday North Korea could become one of the world’s “great economic powers” if it relinquished its nuclear arsenal.
“Chairman Kim realizes, perhaps better than anyone else, that without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the world,” he wrote on Twitter.
Security was tight before Kim’s train arrived in Dandong, with police cordoning off the border bridge with tape and metal barriers, and leading an AFP journalist out of the area.
A hotel facing the bridge was closed for impromptu renovations on Saturday.
“The train is long and crossed the bridge slower than the tourist train, but it’s definitely him, there’s a lot of police presence,” an unidentified source told NK News.
Windows on the train were blacked out, the source said, with only headlights turned on as it crossed.