With limos and private train, Kim Jong-un travels in style

TOKYO (AP) — It’s a short hop from Pyongyang to Vladivostok by plane. There’s even a semi-regular flight.

But for his first summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has once again opted to go by train.

And while they aren’t quite as flashy as the ‘Beast’ which United States (US) President Donald Trump famously showed Kim when they met for the first time, he also had a couple of fancy black Mercedes pre-delivered and waiting for him when he got into town.

Kim likes to travel in style. A look at how he rolls:

RIDING THE RAILS

According to the North’s state media, Kim’s private train left for Vladivostok at dawn on Wednesday “amid the warm send-off by the leading officials of the party, government and armed organs and the people”.

It didn’t provide any more details about the train, which arrived in the Pacific port city on Wednesday evening. Russian officials had little to add other than that he was welcomed by a military orchestra before speeding off in his personal limousine.

Kim is reportedly travelling with a big entourage — possibly more than 200 people — and lots of supplies. His train, unmistakable with its dark green paint job and yellow piping, is perfect for that.

It’s built like a tank.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves from his train as he arrives at the railway station in Dong Dang, Vietnam on March 2. – PHOTOS: AP
A stretched Mercedes limousine believed to carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un leaves a train station with a convoy in Beijing, China on January 8

Its cars are equipped with advanced communications and flat-screen TVs so he can give orders and receive news and briefings while on the way.

It’s also believed to be capable of meeting other special needs.

For security reasons, officials reportedly make sure to collect Kim’s bodily waste and even his cigarette butts to prevent foreign intelligence agencies from collecting and analysing them for clues into the leader’s health.

The Kim express is a familiar image to all North Koreans.

Kim’s father and grandfather used trains extensively. A mock-up on permanent display at the ‘Palace of the Sun’ mausoleum on the outskirts of Pyongyang where the elder Kims lie in state makes the train look like it’s all business, with a desk and meeting-room decor.

But according to an account published in 2002 by Konstantin Pulikovsky, a Russian official who accompanied Kim’s late father, Kim Jong-il, on a three-week trip to Moscow in 2001, the train carried cases of beverages from Paris. Passengers could feast on live lobster and barbecue.

THE STRETCH LIMOS

One of the things Kim most wanted to get rid of at his summit with Trump in Hanoi was a ban on the sale of luxury goods to his country. Trump ended up balking at that and Kim’s other demands and the talks failed.

But Kim isn’t hurting for a fancy ride.

According to South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, he had two limos waiting for him at Vladivostok station — a Mercedes Maybach S600 Pullman Guard and a Mercedes Maybach S62.

He is believed to have also used the Mercedes Maybach S600 Pullman Guard for his summits with Trump in Singapore in June last year and in Hanoi in February.

According to Daimler, the Mercedes-Benz Pullman limousines offer their passengers “a superbly appointed setting for discreet meetings”. It’s equipped with all the key communications and entertainment systems so its occupants can remain “fully in touch with the rest of the world while enjoying the luxury and comfort of their own very special place in it”.

The limo’s 12-cylinder biturbo engine affords a quick and safe getaway if needed. A “panic alarm system” can be activated from anywhere in the vehicle to lock the doors and “create a protected zone” while alerting the outside world through visual and audible alarm signals.

All for only about USD1.5 million.

For sure, even that pales before the super-Cadillac that US presidents ride in, which is protected against biological attack, can emit a smoke-screen and carries an emergency supply of blood in Trump’s type.

But Kim has another way of making an impression.

In several of his previous summits, including both meetings with Trump, he had an extra layer of protection — a contingent of 12 suit-clad bodyguards who trotted alongside his limo at key moments.