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Kim Jong-un

All aboard the Kim Jong-un Express to China: a rare glimpse inside the armoured train

Footage from North Korea’s state broadcaster shows details from reclusive leader’s first overseas trip, including officials seated in pink armchairs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 8:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 11:27pm

North Korea’s state broadcaster gave the world a rare glimpse inside the green armoured train that took leader Kim Jong-un to China this week, in a long television report aired on Thursday.

Kim’s visit from Sunday to Wednesday was shrouded in secrecy and only officially confirmed after he returned to Pyongyang. But the 42-minute report by Korean Central Television gave a chronological account of the reclusive leader’s first overseas trip since he succeeded his father in 2011 – including details not reported by Chinese state media.

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Starting with a shot of the train heading to Chinese border city Dandong, it shows the carriage housing Kim’s office – much like the one in Pyongyang – with a desk and chair, and a map of China and the Korean peninsula hanging on the wall behind it.

When it arrives in Dandong, officials from the Chinese Communist Party, including International Liaison Department chief Song Tao, are seen boarding the train, watched on by a group of North Korean officials seated in pink armchairs.

Kim – whose age is unknown but is believed to be around 34 – stands in the middle of the compartment as they approach, but he does not move towards the delegation to greet them. Instead, he waits for the Chinese officials to come to him, offering each of them a firm handshake and a smile.

When the train finally arrives in Beijing on Monday, Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju receive a warm welcome from Chinese officials as they step onto a red carpet on the platform.

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Heavily fortified – and, if rumour is to be believed, luxurious – train carriages were the favoured mode of transport for the North Korean leader’s father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung.

They are thought to include conference rooms, bedrooms and audience chambers, with hi-tech communications such as satellite phones and flat-screen television screens.

According to the state broadcaster’s report, Kim and Ri were taken by limousine, escorted by 21 police motorcycles, from the railway station in Beijing.

They were welcomed to the Great Hall of the People by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan, with music from the People’s Liberation Army band, before Kim and Xi met for talks.

The report also sheds light on a banquet held that evening, where officials from the two sides are seen watching footage of Kim’s father and grandfather visiting China, with scenes of the leaders of the two countries hugging their “traditional blood allies”.

It includes a rare shot of Xi wearing glasses as he and Kim watch a cultural performance, sitting next to each other and apparently chatting about the show.

Kim is also seen visiting the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Temple of Heaven, and it also shows the two leaders exchanging gifts – with the cameras capturing the moment Kim and Ri are given a blue porcelain vase, silk and distilled Chinese liquor.

On the talks, the state broadcaster said Kim and Xi exchanged views on bilateral ties and the Korean peninsula, with Kim saying his party and the government were determined to take the relationship to a “new stage” to meet the needs of the times.

Xi meanwhile said Kim’s visit came at a “special” time, and that in this new era, the two countries would upgrade their relationship to contribute to peace and stability in the region – implying strong reluctance towards any military intervention to solve the situation on the Korean peninsula.

China’s secrecy over Kim Jong-un’s visit was part of a long-standing tradition

The report wraps up with Kim back on the train, being escorted to Dandong by the Chinese delegation, before he is seen talking with his trusted aides, seated comfortably on those pink armchairs again.

It is not the first time North Korea’s official broadcaster has taken its cameras inside the Kim family trains, previously offering details such as floors bulletproofed with iron sheets, and a narrow carriage apparently containing Kim Jong-il’s office – complete with glossy wooden floors, a wooden desk and chair, and camel-coloured sofa.