Some experts believe North Korea's aircraft may not be able to handle a transcontinental trip without refueling, which would be bad optics on the global stage.
- 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.
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.
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."