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

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.


Panic grips Kashmir after internet crackdown

Updated 3 min 9 sec ago

Panic grips Kashmir after internet crackdown

  • Authorities use UAPA charges against those ‘misusing’ social media

NEW DELHI: When Yahia Mir steps outside of his home in Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, he is careful to leave his smartphone behind. 

The 23-year-old journalism student from Kashmir University explained that he does so because he is scared of security forces discovering the Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed on his mobile phone.

Recently, Mir (not his real name) said, a friend of his was assaulted by officials who found a VPN on his phone.

“Everyone in the valley uses a VPN to connect with the outside world,” Mir told Arab News on Wednesday. “Tell me, how do you expect life to be normal when there is no internet?” 

The disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir has been under curfew following New Delhi’s annulment of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution — which guaranteed special autonomy to Kashmir, parts of which are governed in part by both India and Pakistan, but all of which is claimed by both countries to belong to them.

Since the Indian government annulled Article 370, there has been a crackdown on mobile and Internet services in the valley which, to date, have only been partially restored.

To get around the internet ban many in the valley turned to proxy networks, which allow users to anonymously connect with a third-person server outside of Kashmir.

On Tuesday, in a renewed crackdown, the Indian government filed charges against people “misusing” social media.

Local police in Srinagar registered cases against various unnamed individuals under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a draconian law that means anyone charged cannot seek bail for six months.

Police said that action would be taken against those who misused social-media sites to propagate “secessionist ideology and (promote) unlawful activities.”

“There have been continuous reports of misuse of social media sites by the miscreants to propagate secessionist ideology and to promote unlawful activities,” Jammu and Kashmir police said in a statement released on Tuesday, which went on to say that the “miscreants” were “propagating rumors with regard to the current security scenario of the Kashmir valley … and glorifying terror acts/ terrorists. 

“A lot of incriminating material has also been seized in this regard.” A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against the “miscreants.”

Mir told Arab News that this is “the government’s new way to terrorize the people of Kashmir.”

Legal professional Deeba Ashraf said the crackdown feels “as if we are living in the 19th century.”

She told Arab News: “My profession demands that I remain updated about recent cases and case laws. How is that possible without the internet?” She added that “even security personnel” in the valley are using VPNs.

“I have lost trust in the government and I don’t see which way Kashmir is going,” she continued. “The government’s crackdown scares everyone. But I wonder does the government have any policy for Kashmir besides lockdown?”

Computer engineer Muddasir (not his real name) agreed.

“Most of the people who needed the Internet for their professional survival have left the valley,” he said. “I am also thinking of leaving Srinagar to escape the prison that we are in. The sense of fear is so strong. Imagine: Security forces are checking your phone and trying to see what apps are on (it). Is this normal?”

Iltiza Mufti, daughter of the detained former Chief Minister of Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti, strongly condemned the government’s measures.

“The rest of the country — and the envoys who visited Kashmir — were told that we enjoy equal rights, but in reality you can’t even use VPN in Kashmir. What rights do Kashmiris have right now?” she asked in a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday.

“The clampdown in Kashmir (is taking a huge toll) and Jammu and Kashmir is grappling with an economic, psychological and emotional crisis,” added Mufti, who has become the face of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after her mother’s arrest last year.

Srinagar-based political analyst and writer, Gowhar Geelani, told Arab News: “This is an official admission by the Indian government of thought control of the entire population of Kashmir. This is a war against the people of Kashmir. The arrest of the three former chief ministers of the state and the detention of other political activists show that, in Kashmir, the only opinion that matters is the opinion of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

Geelani added that there are “darker days ahead and not much hope.”