When Kim Jong Un arrived in Beijing earlier this week for talks with President Xi Jinping, he discreetly rolled into the Chinese capital in a slow-moving, forest-green train with tinted windows similar to those used by his father and grandfather.
Known to have bulletproof carriages, the armoured train was the first hint that the North Korean leader was in town making his first overseas trip since assuming power in 2011.
In choosing rail as his preferred method of travel to Beijing, Kim is following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung, both of whom made overland journeys to Russia and China.
Kim Jong Il was renowned for his fear of flying; his 2011 trip to China was a marathon 6,000km journey taking in Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai among other destinations.
He also took trains to Russia in 2001, when he went to Moscow, and in 2011, when he met then-president Dmitry Medvedev in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude.
According to a 2009 report by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, the heavily armoured nature of Kim Jong Il’s train meant it could only travel at 60kmh.
The report added: “Kim’s train is armoured and also contains conference rooms, an audience chamber and bedrooms. Satellite phone connections and flat-screen TVs have been installed so that the North Korean leader can be briefed and issue orders.”
The Washington Post meanwhile cited a Russian official who travelled with Kim Jong Il to Moscow in 2001, who said that live lobsters and other delicacies were regularly sent to the train as it travelled.
An earlier South Korean intelligence report said that three trains operate each time the senior Kim travelled. An advance train specialising in security, the leader’s train and a third carrying bodyguards and supplies.
In the train’s latest venture abroad, photos released by North Korean news agency KCNA revealed glimpses of the train’s interior, showing Kim Jong Un meeting with Chinese officials on one of its carriages.
Kim Jong Un has already used the train to travel domestically: In a video from 2015, he was shown sitting in a stark white conference room on board with a laptop in the background.
Here are Kim Jong-un’s photos inside his armoured train: