North Korean leader Kim Jong-un set out for Hanoi by train Saturday, North Korean media reported Sunday.
North Korean state media reported in the early hours of Sunday that Kim left Pyongyang by train to attend the summit with US President Donald Trump. On the trip, which is expected to take approximately 60 hours, Kim is accompanied by a number of top officials including his sister Kim Yo-jong and top aide Kim Yong-chol.
According to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, the trip will double as an official goodwill visit to Vietnam at the invitation of Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong. Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, was not mentioned by the KCNA.
The unusually quick revelation of Kim’s overseas trip by the KCNA has been taken as a continuation of the North’s attempts to show itself as a normal state.
As for Trump, the US has not yet announced his travel schedule, but a number of local news outlets reported that he is likely to set out Monday, citing flight time from Washington and the itinerary of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The US Department of State had announced a day earlier that Pompeo will be traveling to Hanoi from Tuesday to Thursday. A detailed timetable for the Trump-Kim face-to-face has not been announced, but the summit has been scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
Along with Pompeo, it is speculated that US national security adviser John Bolton will be present at the summit. Bolton was reported to be planning a trip to South Korea to confer with his counterparts, but the trip was canceled due to issues regarding Venezuela. He will still be attending the Hanoi summit, according to US media reports.
While the two leaders ready themselves for their second summit, working-level officials from the two sides have been hammering out details of the summit agenda in Hanoi.
In the working-level talks, the North’s side is led by Kim Hyok-chol, Pyongyang’s special representative for the United States, and the US by Stephen Biegun, Washington’s envoy for North Korea. On Saturday Kim Hyok-chol and Biegun met for a third consecutive day.
Following the morning meeting Saturday, Biegun was seen giving a thumbs-up sign to cameras waiting outside the meeting venue, prompting positive speculations about the working-level talks.
No information about the ongoing negotiations have been officially confirmed, but it is speculated the two sides are hammering out the details of what the South Korean media has dubbed the “Hanoi declaration.”
The statement that comes out of the second US-North Korea summit is expected to include more details about denuclearization and related issues, such as the shutdown of specific nuclear facilities in the North and possible reciprocal measures from the US.