Trump's nod to meeting Kim Jong Un at the Korean DMZ could save North Korea from an 'embarrassing' problem

  • President Donald Trump seemed to hint on Monday that he would like to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Korean demilitarized zone.

  • North Korea may not have a plane capable of taking Kim far overseas, which could potentially embarrass the country.

  • If the meeting happens in Korea, Kim's potential embarrassment has been averted.

President Donald Trump seemed to hint on Monday that he would like to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Korean demilitarized zone, the most heavily armed border in the world — and it may save Kim a massive embarrassment.

Kim has taken only one international trip since becoming leader in 2011, to neighboring China, and he did so via train. Some experts told The Washington Post earlier in April that Kim may not have an aircraft capable of flying nonstop over long distances.

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

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

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Sanctions have weighed heavily on North Korea for decades and it's become very difficult for Pyongyang to buy or maintain planes. Additionally, almost all of its aviation fuel comes from China, which has severely limited exports to the country.

The analysts suggested that stopping by another country mid-journey to refuel could highlight the limitations of North Korea's aircraft — and, by extension, its struggle to keep up with technological advances.

Some aviation experts, however, think North Korea's fleet may include aircraft that can safely make international trips.

Air Koryo, North Korea's state-owned airline, has two Tupolev jets — similar to the Boeing 757 jetliner — with a 3,000-mile range, the aviation journalist Charles Kennedy told The Post, adding that they have an "excellent safety record."

"In terms of his traveling anywhere, it would not be a problem — the South Koreans or the Swedes would give him a ride," Victor Cha, a Korea analyst for MSNBC, told The Post. "But it would be embarrassing."

Adding to the potential embarrassment, Kim himself is a pilot with a known love of flying.