Can North Korea's Planes Actually Get Kim to US Summit?

The 'Washington Post' takes a look at potential aviation limitations
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2018 10:15 AM CDT
Can North Korea's Planes Actually Get Kim to US Summit?
In this June 27, 2015, file photo, an Air Koryo plane sits on the tarmac in front of the new terminal building at Pyongyang's international airport in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

Kim Jong Un on Monday finally acknowledged the planned North Korea-US summit, but there's still no word on where it will take place. At the Washington Post, David Nakamura looks at an interesting wrinkle: whether Kim has a plane that can actually get him to wherever it will be held and how the logistics of it all will jibe with his quest to "project a more charismatic and worldly image." Nakamura writes there's some speculation that President Trump might suggest a more impressive location than the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas or neighboring China—Singapore or Sweden, for instance. But the planes the North is known to possess are largely Ukrainian- or Russian-made ones capable only of regional travel, or the Soviet-era Ilyushin Il-62, which some say is too old for a long haul.

If that's the case, it would leave three options, all potentially embarrassing: Hitch a ride on a South Korean flight, refuel along the way (avoiding numerous countries where sanctions are in force), or borrow a plane from China or Russia (though there's a good chance it would be bugged). National Geographic in February published a photo essay of the North's "retro" planes, and it gives some background on the country's single commercial airline, Air Koryo, which has been flying since 1945. It reports the airline has only two international destinations—China and Vladivostok, Russia—but that those flights aren't void of amenities: Travelers are served North Korean beer, for instance. (More Kim Jong Un stories.)

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