24 February, 2019
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set off by train for Vietnam on Saturday, for his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump next week, media reported, and hours later, two witnesses saw a train crossing into China from North Korea.
Kim has previously travelled in an armoured train to Beijing and, if he is on board, may stop in the Chinese capital on what could be an epic journey to Vietnam, meeting President Xi Jinping prior to his second face-to-face with the United States president.
Vietnam's foreign ministry announced earlier on Saturday that Kim would make an official visit to Vietnam in "coming days" at the invitation of Nguyen Phu Trong, the president and general secretary of the Southeast Asian nation's ruling Communist Party.
He is expected to arrive in Vietnam on February 25. A train journey to Hanoi could take two days or more, and include a lengthy auto trip from the Vietnam-China border.
On Kim's last rail trip in January, he travelled to Beijing with his entourage in an olive-green train emblazoned with a yellow stripe.
In his upcoming meeting with Trump, experts say Kim will seek a US commitment for improved bilateral relations and partial sanctions relief while trying to minimize any concessions on his nuclear facilities and weapons.
According to state officials, Trump spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe via telephone last Wednesday prior to the Vietnam summit with Kim.
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Kim would then have another, long train ride south to Vietnam. They are expected to focus on what steps North Korea might take towards denuclearisation, in exchange for what USA concession.
Security was tight before the train's arrival, with police cordoning off the riverfront some 100m from the bridge with tape and metal barriers, and leading an AFP journalist out of the area.
On Feb. 26, Vietnam will ban traffic on the road Kim is expected to take to Hanoi from a station on the Chinese border, state media said. But when he visited China the same year, he used his own specialized steel-plated train instead.
Travel by train has been a favorite mode of transport for Kim Jong Un, and his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung.
Trump will meet with Kim one-on-one in Hanoi for a meal and have lengthier negotiations over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, where they will be joined by aides, US officials said.
The preferred location for the summit is the Government Guesthouse, a colonial-era building in central Hanoi, three sources told Reuters on Wednesday.