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 told Reuters on Wednesday.
It could take Kim at least two and a half days to travel the thousands of kilometers 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 Feb. 25 arrival.
Kim’s train will stop at the Vietnamese border station of Dong Dang, where he will disembark and drive 170 km (105 miles) to Hanoi by car, the sources said.
Trump and Kim will meet in the Vietnamese capital on Feb. 27-28, eight months after a historic summit in Singapore in June — the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader — at which they pledged to work toward the complete denuclearization 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 Jong Un’s newly appointed nuclear negotiator, Kim Hyok Chol, arrived in Hanoi on Wednesday, a Reuters witness and 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.
All five sources who spoke to Reuters said the plans were subject to change. The sources were not authorized to speak to the media because of the sensitivities surrounding the secretive North Korean leader’s travel plans.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the summit organizing committee on Tuesday that security during the summit was “top priority,” Vietnam’s government said on its website on Wednesday.
The Metropole Hotel, opposite the Government Guesthouse, will be a backup location for the summit, two of the sources said.
On Saturday, a Reuters witness saw Kim Jong Un’s close aide Kim Chang Son visiting the Government Guesthouse and the Metropole and Melia hotels in the center of the capital.
Kim could possibly stay in the Melia hotel during his visit, one of the sources said.
Asked whether Kim would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on his way through the country, or for any other details of the trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman 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.
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