Ten years after last visit, Kim Jong Il heads to Russia

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has reportedly crossed the Russian border in his armored train, which is used for his rare international visits. Kim Jong Il is visiting Russia for the first time since 2002.

The agenda, to be discussed at the highest level, will include issues tied to further energy co-operation between the two countries, the protracted negotiations on denuclearization and tensions between South Korea and North Korea.

Last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Kim Jong Il was officially invited to visit Russia quite a long time ago, but the schedule and terms of his visit had yet to be discussed.

An exchange of artillery fire between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea on August 11 made it unclear whether the North Korean leader would take up the invitation.

The last time Kim Jong Il, the general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, visited Russia was in August 2002, roughly nine years ago.

Because of his well-known fear of air travel, Kim Jong Il only uses ground transportation, such as armored cars and trains.

Kim Jong Il mostly uses the trains when he makes inspection visits to local army units and factories, and for rare travel abroad. Kim Jong Il has his own railroad routes to the borders with China and Russia.

According to information leaked to the media, Kim Jong Il has six personal trains with a total of 90 carriages. There are also 19 private stations across North Korea built exclusively to house and maintain his trains.

When Kim Jong Il is traveling by train, he never leaves the safety of his carriage during the stops along the road. And all officials who travel with him are forced to stay onboard as well. According to local media reports, Kim Jong Il’s train proceeded without fanfare during short stops at the stations during his visit to Russia in 2002.

Kim Jong Il has few wants during his self-imposed confinement to his state-of-the-art, highly-secure trains. The trains are equipped with conference rooms, reception halls and bedrooms, as described by UK’s Telegraph.co.uk. And modern communications equipment allows the leader not to lose his grip on the country while traveling.

The use of advanced materials and technologies makes the trains much less visible to US satellites and drone aircrafts, as they are shielded from most kinds of infrared and sound radars and sensors, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported, citing analyses by South Korean and US intelligence authorities. According to South Korean intelligence, the engineers have gone even further and used special stealth technology for the vehicles’ bodies.

Once Kim Jong Il leaves the station he is always escorted by at least two shadow trains, which are intended to confuse possible attackers.

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