North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s armored limousine, surrounded by his phalanx of burly bodyguards, rolled into Vietnam’s capital Tuesday ahead of a summit with President Donald Trump that’s meant to deal with perhaps the world’s biggest security challenge:
Kim’s pursuit of a nuclear program that stands on the verge of viably threatening targets around the planet. Soldiers, police and international journalists thronged the streets outside Hanoi’s Melia Hotel where Kim was set to stay, and hundreds of eager citizens stood behind barricades hoping to see the North Korean leader. As Vietnamese, North Korean and U.S. flags fluttered in a cold drizzle, dozens of cameras flashed and some citizens screamed and used their mobile phones to capture Kim’s rock-star-like arrival at the hotel.
“I like him,” local resident Van Dang Luu, who works at a nearby bank, said of Kim. “He is very young and he is very interesting. And he is very powerful,” she said. “Trump is not young, but I think he is very powerful.” Vietnam’s authoritarian leaders set up a huge security apparatus to welcome Kim, shutting long stretches of highway and locking down swaths of the bustling capital city. Earlier in the morning, Kim, grinning broadly and waving, stepped off his armored train at the end of a long ride that started in Pyongyang and wound through China to the Vietnamese border.
He shook hands with officials as Vietnamese troops in crisp, white uniforms and black boots stood at attention on a red carpet at the normally-sleepy Dong Dang railway station on the China-Vietnam border.
Kim’s arrival comes as Vietnamese officials scramble to finish preparations for a rushed summit; they have shared few details about the specifics of a meeting that the world will be watching closely. Trump was flying to Hanoi from Washington and set to arrive later Tuesday. Although many experts are skeptical Kim will give up the nuclear weapons he likely sees as his best guarantee of continued rule, there was a palpable, carnival-like excitement among many in Hanoi as the final preparations were made for the meeting. There were also huge traffic jams in the already congested streets.
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