Kim Jong Un may not have an airplane capable of taking him to meet Trump -- and it could get 'embarrassing'

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump are poised to meet for the first time.
  • Although details of the specific time and location of the summit are unclear, an international destination could pose a problem for Kim.
  • Some experts believe North Korea's aircraft may not be able to handle a transcontinental trip without refueling, and that would be an unflattering wrinkle for Kim on the global stage.

As the intrigue behind the upcoming US-North Korea summit gains momentum, theories on where the summit will be held prompted an additional question: how will North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travel to the meeting location?

While the summit on April 27 between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim is expected to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom on the border, the location and the exact date for Kim's meeting with US President Donald Trump has yet to be announced.

While Trump and Kim could also potentially meet at Panmunjom, some analysts have pondered whether Trump might prefer a different setting, like Switzerland, Iceland, or Sweden. A different destination, however, may pose a problem for Kim.

14 PHOTOS
Inside Panmunjom, the truce village separating North and South Korea
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Inside Panmunjom, the truce village separating North and South Korea
South Korean soldiers stand guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 11: A North Korean soldier stands guard at the border village of Panmunjom between South and North Korea at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on April 11, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet for the first time on April 27, 2018 in the Peace House, a South Korean building inside Panmunjom. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean soldiers stand guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 11: North Korean military check point is seen from an observation post on April 11, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet for the first time on April 27, 2018 in the Peace House, a South Korean building inside Panmunjom. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean soldiers stand guard in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea February 7, 2018. Picture taken on February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Josh Smith
PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 11: A North Korean national flag in North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong is seen from an observation post on April 11, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet for the first time on April 27, 2018 in the Peace House, a South Korean building inside Panmunjom. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
A South Korean soldier stands guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A North Korean soldier is seen through a door on the North side of the border truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on April 11, 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are due to meet on April 27 at the South's side of the demilitarized zone for the landmark inter-Korean summit. / AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A South Korean soldier stands guard at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean soldiers work on a barricade on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean soldiers stand guard in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea, February 7, 2018. Picture taken on February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Josh Smith
The general view shows a North Korean village near the truce village of Panmunjom, seen from within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean soldiers walk beside the road leading to the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom, seen from within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
This general view shows a North Korean miltary post on the road to the truce village of Panmunjom, seen from within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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As North Korea's leader, Kim has only taken one international trip, and that was to neighboring China — via train. He may not have an aircraft capable of flying nonstop over long distances. some analysts cited by The Washington Post said.

"We used to make fun of what they have — it's old stuff," former CIA analyst Sue Mi Terry said to The Post. "We would joke about their old Soviet planes."

"They don’t have an aircraft that can fly across the Pacific — most are quite old," added Joseph Bermudez, an analyst at 38 North, a US-based North Korea think tank.

Stopping by another country mid-journey to refuel could point out the limitations of North Korea's aircraft, and by extension, the ruling power's struggle to keep up with technological advances.

Other aviation experts believe that North Korea's fleet may include aircraft that have an "excellent safety record" and have the ability to make international trips.

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Air Koryo, North Korea's state-owned airline
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Air Koryo, North Korea's state-owned airline
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on July 24, 2013 shows an Air Koryo employee aboard a Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft at Terminal 2 of Beijing international airport prior to a flight to Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Crew members walk beneath an Air Koryo aircraft during the second day of the Wonsan Friendship Air Festival in Wonsan on September 25, 2016. Just weeks after carrying out its fifth nuclear test, North Korea put on an unprecedented civilian and military air force display Saturday at the country's first ever public aviation show. / AFP (Photo credit should read /AFP/Getty Images)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA FEBRUARY 9, 2018: Tupolev Tu-204-300 of the Air Koryo North Korean airline at the Vladivostok International Airport. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri Smityuk\TASS via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 06: Flight attendant inside an air Koryo tupolev plane, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea on September 6, 2012 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 06: Inside an air Koryo tupolev plane, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea on September 6, 2012 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] An Ilyushin 76 crew from Air Koryo, North Korea's only airline.
A vendor adjusts drinks at an Air Koryo bar at the airport in Pyongyang, North Korea April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Passengers board an Air Koryo Antonov An-148-100B aircraft at the airport in Pyongyang, North Korea April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A North Korean airline attendant is seen on an Air Koryo aircraft flying towards Pyongyang from Beijing, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT SOCIETY)
Air Koryo planes are parked at the airport in Pyongyang, North Korea April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
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Air Koryo, North Korea's state-owned airline, has two Tupolev jets — aircraft similar to the Boeing 757 jetliner — which have a 3,000 mile range, aviation journalist Charles Kennedy told The Post.

Despite the potential limitations North Korea's aircraft may pose, Kim would still have other options, according to Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a Korea analyst at MSNBC.

"In terms of his traveling anywhere, it would not be a problem — the South Koreans or the Swedes would give him a ride," Cha said in the report. "But it would be embarrassing."

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