North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's armoured train arrived in China late on Saturday (Feb 23) ahead of his highly anticipated second summit with US President Donald Trump in Vietnam, according to media reports.
Trump and Kim will meet in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore in June - the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader - at which they pledged to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Russia's TASS news agency reported hours earlier that Kim departed from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on his personal train.
Vietnam's Foreign Ministry also announced on Saturday that Kim will pay an official goodwill visit to Vietnam "in the coming days" in response to an invitation by President Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also the general secretary of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party.
Kim and Trump are scheduled to meet for their much-awaited second summit on Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi.
After crossing onto Vietnamese soil, he would disembark his train and drive the 170 kilometers (105 miles) to Hanoi by vehicle, according to sources cited by Reuters.
It could take Kim at least two and a half days to travel thousands of kilometres through China by train to Vietnam.
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.
"It sends a strong message to North Koreans that Kim Jong Un has inherited his grandfather's good qualities, and the Kim Dynasty is stronger than ever", Koh Yu-hwan, professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said.
A senior security official in Vietnam told Reuters that Hanoi had been expecting a Vietnam-bound train to depart Pyongyang on Saturday, but did not know if Kim Jong Un himself was on board.
Vietnamese police have stepped up security around the border station.
Another option for Kim would be to take the train to Beijing and catch a plane to the Vietnamese capital. But when he visited China the same year, he used his own specialized steel-plated train instead.
They said the Metropole Hotel would be a backup location for the summit and Kim could possibly stay in the Melia hotel.
Trump and Kim met in June in Singapore, producing a vaguely worded agreement on denuclearisation, but progress has since stalled, with the two sides disagreeing over what the agreement meant.
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