N.Korea’s Kim to travel to Vietnam by train, summit at Government Guesthouse

Sources say Kim Jong Un, above, and Trump will meet in the Government Guesthouse in Hanoi. (AFP)
Updated 20 February 2019
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N.Korea’s Kim to travel to Vietnam by train, summit at Government Guesthouse

  • The trip would take Kim Jong Un at least two and a half days
  • The two leaders will discuss the denuclearization of Korea

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 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 surround 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.

Like father, like son

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.

North Korea experts have remarked on how Kim Jong Un’s overseas visits, such as his state visit to China in January, are reminiscent of Kim Il Sung.

“(His father) Kim Jong Il was very reclusive. He didn’t like meeting foreign delegations, and he didn’t really enjoy going to foreign countries,” said Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain, who defected to South Korea in 2016, told media on Tuesday.

“But Kim Jong Un is a bit like Kim Il Sung. He really likes overseas activity,” said Thae.

Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, visited Vietnam twice, in 1958 and 1964.

In 1958, Kim Il Sung went from Pyongyang to Beijing by plane, then from Beijing to Guangzhou by train, then he appears to have crossed the border from China to Hanoi by plane, South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported on Tuesday citing archived Chinese media reports.

In 1964, Kim Il Sung visited Vietnam using a Vickers Viscount aircraft provided by China that was the personal plane of Mao Zedong’s second-in-command Lin Biao, Kyunghyang reported.


Bomb in Afghan mosque kills senior cleric during Friday prayers

Updated 24 May 2019
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Bomb in Afghan mosque kills senior cleric during Friday prayers

  • No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban and Daesh fighters regularly stage attacks in the capital
  • The explosion hit at a time when dozens of men had gathered for prayers

KABUL: A bomb exploded in a mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul, during Friday prayers, officials said, killing three people including a senior preacher and wounding at least 20 men who had gathered for worship.
The preacher, Samiullah Raihan, was a supporter of the Western-backed Afghan government which Taliban militants are trying to bring down. He was also a member of the National Ulema Council, Afghanistan’s top Muslim clerical body.
Firdaws Faramarz, a police spokesman, said explosives were apparently placed near the altar of the Al-Taqwa mosque, a place used by the mosque leader to initiate the prayers.
The neighborhood where the bombing took place is dominated by Sunni Muslims. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban and Daesh fighters regularly stage attacks in the capital.
The explosion hit at a time when dozens of men had gathered for prayers. The death toll could rise, said a second official.