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Asia-Pacific

N.Korea cautions US critics as Kim travels to summit with Trump

media Kim departing Pyongyang Station for the second North Korea-US summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, 23 February 2019. Photo: KCNA via KNS/AFP

North Korean state media has hit back at US critics of the scheduled meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump as the North Korean leader travelled by train from Pyongyang to Vietnam, the venue of the summit.

The two leaders are expected to meet next week in Vietnam’s capital following a meeting in Singapore last June. Last year’s meeting resulted in an ambiguous statement about the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Top officials from Pyongyang and Washington are taking part in preparatory talks in Hanoi focused on determining the agenda for the summit.

The US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, who heads the US delegation, said last month that the two countries did not have a “shared agreement of what denuclearisation entails”, according to reports from the AFP news agency.

Scepticism in Washington has been fuelled by a lack of progress since the first summit. And Trump’s intelligence chief has said North Korea is unlikely to completely give up its weapons programme.

Kim walks with Trump during a break in talks at the US-North Korea summit in Singapore, 13 June 2018. Photo: KCNA via KNS/AFP

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency denounced critics in the US, saying the Trump administration must grab “the rare historic opportunity”.

“If the upcoming DPRK-US negotiations end without results as wished by the opponent forces, the US people will never be cleared of the security threats,” said Pyongyang’s official mouthpiece.

The North Korean state media said the US authorities must not forget the “lesson” from last year’s summit when it “plunged the bilateral negotiations into a stalemate” following persuasion from “opponent forces”.

North Korea wants respite from harsh UN sanctions and dismisses calls for what it describes as “unilateral” disarmament.

The US says the measures must remain in force until Pyongyang gives up its nuclear weapons.

Full steam ahead

Kim’s travel to Vietnam was cloaked in secrecy until a train with yellow stripes was seen crossing the Yalu river passing into China on Saturday evening.

The North Korean leader’s travel plans had remained a mystery. However, both his father and grandfather did not hide their fascination with trains.

The train used by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen leaving Beijing Railway Station on 9 January 2019. Photo: Stringer/AFP

It remains unclear whether Kim will remain on board the locomotive all the way to Hanoi or stop en route and continue the onward journey by air. If he remains on the train it is likely the journey will take some two and a half days, according to the Reuters news agency.

Kim’s train is similar to the armoured one used by his father Kim Kong Il and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

Amongst its 21 carriages are conference rooms decked out in white as well as sleeper and dining cars.

North Korea state media has previously shown carriages furnished with pink leather chairs, wide screen televisions and curtains hanging in the windows.

The train is connected to the outside world with satellite communications, North Korean state television has reported as cited by the Reuters news agency.

Kim’s Mercedes Benz vehicle occupies a carriage, according to the Korea Joongang Daily newspaper.

The official car carrying Kim Jong Un leaves The Istana, the residence of Singapore's prime minister, 10 June 2018. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP

Upon passing into China the train can achieve speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour, compared to a top speed of 45 kilometres in its native North Korea, Ahn Byung-min, an expert at the Korea Transport Institute, was cited as saying by Reuters.

Trains have become an intrinsic part of the myth surrounding the Kim family and the North Korean leader’s father, Kim Jong-il, passed away while on a train in 2011.

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