By Kim Yoo-chul
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is set to fly to Hanoi, Vietnam, for his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump using his aged official jet instead of a rented Air China plane, diplomatic sources in Seoul said, Tuesday.
"The more important picture is that Kim hopes to transform his regime into a normal state that no longer sees the need to pursue nuclear armament for deterrence, survival or any other means. From that perspective, Kim is most likely to fly on the state jet, codenamed Chammae-1, this time on his trip to the Vietnamese capital," one source said.
Despite the claim, how the North Korean leader will travel to Hanoi for another meeting with his U.S. counterpart will likely remain a mystery until his actual arrival.
But it's highly unlikely that Kim will use his signature green and yellow train through China to Hanoi given the complexity of the travel route, the source said. If Kim takes the train, then he should travel all the way to the Southeast Asian country through China, which many say is a "time-consuming process."
A good reference for that is Kim Jong-un's grandfather Kim Il-sung, founder of North Korea, who traveled to Vietnam twice using his train in the 1950s and 1960s.
Cheong Wa Dae said it has no information on the matter.
The distance from Pyongyang to Hanoi is an estimated 2,770 kilometers, a far shorter trip than when Kim traveled to Singapore for the first U.S.-North Korea summit. The sources said the Chammae-1, manufactured in 1974, could cover the Pyongyang-Hanoi route.
So far, the plane has mostly been used for travel to Beijing with no further operational experience.
Lee Il-woo, a researcher at Seoul-based think tank Korea Defense Network, said the North Korean leader may rent a plane from China again due to "security-related factors."
"As Kim Jong-un is expected to put safety as his priority, it's a huge challenge for him to visit Hanoi using the Chammae-1. The official state jet may be used to transport logistics and officials who will be accompanying Kim, while Kim will rent an Air China-owned Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet for his trip to the Vietnamese city," said Yang Wook, a security expert in Seoul.
The Chammae-1 was used by Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong when she visited Seoul for her participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February last year.