First pictures have emerged of the train used by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to meet Chinese leaders.

The distinctive green and yellow armoured train that pulled into Beijing on Monday is the same one used by his father Kim Jong-il in May 2000 when he too travelled to Beijing to visit Jiang Zemin, China's leader at the time.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said Kim Jong-Un's trip ran from Sunday to Wednesday but appeared to include travel time from Pyongyang on the special armored train that Kim travelled in, which secretly arrived in Beijing on Monday and left Tuesday afternoon.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, centre left, talks with Song Tao, the head of China's ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department, in the train. Photo / AP/Korean Central News Agency
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, centre left, talks with Song Tao, the head of China's ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department, in the train. Photo / AP/Korean Central News Agency

The North Korean government released a series of images of the train via its state news agency although the content couldn't be independently verified.

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According to a 2009 report in the South Korean press, the train at the time consisted of about 90 armoured carriages, with two separate trains travelling ahead of and behind it to handle security.

Because of its weight, it moves slowly - its average speed is reported to be 60km/h - but inside, it is relatively high-tech and luxurious, the Daily Mail reports.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, centre left, talks with Song Tao, the head of China's ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department, in the train. Photo / AP/Korean Central News Agency
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, centre left, talks with Song Tao, the head of China's ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department, in the train. Photo / AP/Korean Central News Agency

Advanced communications and flat-screen TVs have been installed so the North Korean leader can give orders and receive news and briefings.

The North Korean government released a series of images of the train via state news agency.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said the trip ran from Sunday to Wednesday but appeared to include travel time from Pyongyang on the special armored train that Kim travelled in, which secretly arrived in Beijing on Monday and left Tuesday afternoon. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified.

The train is reported to come complete with luxurious seating, dark wood panelling and plentiful supplies of alcohol.

Kim Jong Un, centre, and his wife Ri Sol Ju, centre right, are greeted by Chinese Communist Party members in Beijing. Photo / AP/Korean Central News Agency
Kim Jong Un, centre, and his wife Ri Sol Ju, centre right, are greeted by Chinese Communist Party members in Beijing. Photo / AP/Korean Central News Agency

According to an account by Konstantin Pulikovsky, a Russian official who travelled with Kim Jong-il to Moscow in 2001, the train was stacked with cases of Bordeaux and Beaujolais, which had been flown in from Paris especially.

One Russian official who travelled with Kim Jong-il on the train to Moscow in 2001 said that live lobster and other delicacies were regularly sent to the train as it travelled, the Washington Post reported.

Kim Jong-un has used the train to travel domestically: In video from 2015, he was shown sitting in a stark white conference room on board with a laptop in the background.

Kim Jong-Un, centre right, and his wife Ri Sol Ju arrive at Beijing station in Beijing. Photo / AP
Kim Jong-Un, centre right, and his wife Ri Sol Ju arrive at Beijing station in Beijing. Photo / AP

It is difficult to know how - if at all - the train has changed from the days of Kim Jong-Il but the likelihood is that it would not be short of food or drink. The older Kim was reputed to enjoy on-board banquets and karaoke.

It is often reported that the Swiss-educated Kim Jong-un has inherited his father's fondness of the finer things in life, especially Swiss cheese, Cristal champagne and Hennessy cognac.

But while Kim Jong-il was rumoured to hate flying and used the train as an alternative means of travel to China, Russia and Eastern Europe his son is not so squeamish and often travelled abroad by air while getting educated in the West.

Kim Jong Un, centre left, his wife Ri Sol Ju, left, are accompanied by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, centre right, and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing. Photo / AP
Kim Jong Un, centre left, his wife Ri Sol Ju, left, are accompanied by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, centre right, and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing. Photo / AP

In any event, the similarities between the trip in 2000 and Kim Jong-un's 2018 excursion are hard to miss, The Washington Post has reported.

In both cases, the Kims visited for three days; in both cases, they arrived unannounced on a train; in both cases, they met with the Chinese president and toured Beijing's technology hub in Zhongguancun; and in both cases, their visit to China took place ahead of a planned summit with South Korea.

The secrecy surrounding Kim Jong-un's visit to Beijing this week also echoed that of his father's various trips abroad, with state media announcing the visit only after it was over, presumably for security reasons.

Kim Jong Un, left, and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hold a glass for a toast during a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo / AP
Kim Jong Un, left, and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hold a glass for a toast during a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo / AP

Secret trips

For Kim Jong-Un's predecessors, trips were often secret until after they ended.

Experts still couch their estimates of how many times North Korean leaders have travelled abroad because some trips may still remain secret. The Chinese and North Korean media aren't much help. They are state-run and follow the directives of their respective ruling parties.

Kim Jong Il's trip to China in 2003, for example, wasn't announced until days later. When he took the train across Russia to visit President Dmitry Medvedev in 2009, local photographers were reportedly banned from documenting the journey through their country. Whole towns in Siberia were instructed to stay indoors and keep off the streets until the train safely passed.

This journey showed how much times have changed.

News of the train's arrival in Beijing on Monday broke in large part because regular people posted cellphone videos online. Japanese media quickly picked up the videos along with fresh scenes of heavy security and a long motorcade arriving at a state guesthouse.

That unleashed media stakeouts all over town.

In the age of social media and ubiquitous camera phones, it seems discretion is getting harder everywhere.

In this September 17, 1982 photo, Kim Il Sung, right, shakes hands with Deng Xiaoping, left, during a visit to Beijing. Photo / AP
In this September 17, 1982 photo, Kim Il Sung, right, shakes hands with Deng Xiaoping, left, during a visit to Beijing. Photo / AP

A history of trips

Kim Jong Il made about a dozen trips abroad, almost all to China and all by train.

The first was in 1983, while he was still Kim Il Sung's heir apparent. That was the only time the special train is known to have been used by anyone but the leader himself.

Kim Jong Il's first trip abroad on the train as leader came in 2000, six years after his father's death. It's now been six years since Kim Jong Il's death.

In this May 30, 2000 photo, Kim Jong Il chats with Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China during an 'unofficial' visit. Photo / AP
In this May 30, 2000 photo, Kim Jong Il chats with Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China during an 'unofficial' visit. Photo / AP

A close-up look

A life-sized mock-up of one of the train's carriages is on permanent display in the ornate mausoleum on the outskirts of Pyongyang where national founder Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state.

According to North Korea's official account, Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack while on a long-distance train trip.

The display room features a map of the trips the leaders made on the train, with little lights to indicate each stop.

One of the many paintings on the wall shows Kim Jong Il standing beside the train on one of those journeys. Kim Il Sung also used the train extensively, taking it all the way to eastern Europe in 1984.

Inside the car is a desk used by the leaders, along with chairs and a sofa.

Guides at the mausoleum explain that the carriage was used as a mobile office — proof, they insist, the leaders worked tirelessly for the people.

- With AP