Kim Jong-un’s Old Plane May Force Trump To Meet Him In Mongolia

Filed Under: Travel

With a meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un potentially imminent (though highly subject to change), there are lots of things that have to be worked out. The leaders haven’t yet agreed on where they’ll meet, though clearly the place they choose will have a lot of political importance. After all, a US president meeting with the leader of North Korea is almost unheard of. However, it looks like the deciding factor in this won’t just be politics, but also the range of Kim Jong-un’s plane.

Kim Jong-un’s version of Air Force One is an ancient, Russian-built, Il-62. The plane has a range of at most a few thousand miles, which creates some challenges when it comes to deciding where to meet. That’s especially true when you consider that there may be some airspace restrictions on his flight, so he can’t even use the full range of his plane. Since taking office in 2011, Kim Jong-un hasn’t flown outside of the country.

The New York Times talks about potential places the meeting could take place:

  • It’s unlikely a meeting would happen in North Korea, as it would show too much deference on the part of Trump
  • Given the current political situation, it seems unlikely that it would happen in China
  • A country in Europe like Sweden or Switzerland could make sense, but Kim Jong-un would need a plane that could get him there, and that would require him to fly commercial or lease a plane, both of which many say would be an “indignity to Mr. Kim,” given that he claims to only have the best of everything

One country is emerging as a possibility that seems unlikely, and that’s Mongolia. Mongolia has agreed to host the meeting, and Mongolians like to think of themselves as the Switzerland of Asia. While it may seem random, by process of elimination it seems to be one of the better options.

Nothing has been finalized yet, though it’ll be interesting to see what location is chosen. I’m also curious to see if Kim Jong-un flies himself there, given that the Great Leader is one of the world’s most skilled pilots.

(Tip of the hat to Gaurav, featured image courtesy of Raymond Cunningham)

  1. Can’t Russians refuel it in mid air? I beleive that all these old Soviet planes (tu134 tu154 il62) can easily be converted to miltary purpose. Should have refueling conversion. Just a guess.

  2. Or they could just do a technical stop for fuel somewhere in China or Russia. That’s how most VIP flights do long haul flying.

  3. Can’t they stopover in either China (Urumqi?) or somewhere in Russia? Wouldn’t that be the obvious solution? Or as Endre said, refuel midair.

  4. The comment regarding Kim Jung Un never been outside of North Korea is incorrect. He made his first international state visit since 2011 about a month ago to China.

  5. Looking for suitable place to meet which conveys the personalities of these two…try Tokyo Disneyland..the Kim family has an affinity to it! especially the deceased brother…and Donald, well we know him..he will definitely blends with the environment!

    Regarding transportation..hmm.. what about TAAG..their First class is very unique with good “bloody marias”..or Simbabwe Airways..
    with Gucci Grace onboard on her way to the world to have her shopping spree..she would gladly tell him how to stay in power or cash in before leaving the rotten ship..or what about KE with a very superb “Nuts” course exclusively serve from the Nutrage lady herself (it is part of her reorientation in the company)..or fly MIAT with their infamous Mongolian Barbecue.. delicious!

  6. In the 1990s Aeroflot ran a service between Sydney and Moscow via KL and Delhi, for refuelling. I made the trip in the remarkably comfortable IL-62s which were a delight to fly in. I think you’ll find Kim’s aircraft has relatively few cycles despite its vintage and in fact the last IL-62s were produced in the early 2000s for VVIP transport (head of state). Bizarre fact about the IL-62 was that before landing the air con produced a fog in the cabin that could easily be confused for smoke.

  7. Meet in Japan. Abe seems like a very reasonable person and has a good relationship with Trump. I’m sure he won’t mind allowing Kim into the country, and it won’t seem too threatening. Also, since it looks like South Korea may be involved in talks of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maybe South Korea is a good place to hold the talks. Anyway, this is a major political development and this is probably the best thing Trump has done or will ever do.

  8. “…, given that the Great Leader is one of the world’s most skilled pilots.”

    I hope this is sarcasm,because he’s barely doing anything with those controls in plane (guy on right is actually flying it)

  9. I don’t get it. The Il-62 has a standard range of 5400 nm, which is more than enough to fly from FNJ to most of Europe:
    The Il-62M variant that Kim flies actually has further increased fuel capacity, plus many VIP transports are fitted with extra fuel tanks to increase range.

    All that being said, what’s stopping them from making a refueling stop somewhere along the way? Even if China wasn’t happy to help, I’m guessing Russia wouldn’t object too much.

    By the way, the VC-25 that becomes Air Force One has a stated range of 6800 nm, which isn’t dramatically higher than Kim’s flying tin can. Sure, it can refuel in the air, though I’m not sure whether this is done on a regular basis.

  10. Ah….the IL-62…. I flew on that in 1989 from Havana to Mexico City. It was a Cubana flight. The vegetables served on that flight were covered with thick grey mold. I am serious…..

  11. “I hope this is sarcasm,because he’s barely doing anything with those controls in plane (guy on right is actually flying it)”

    No Lucky is totally not being sarcastic, no not at all.

  12. Stop @ed.c. Debit is a Russian troll wanting us to jump at each other’s throat. I’m sure he/she speeks better Russian than English.

  13. I hear mr. Mugabe has a really nice plane parked at his garage. Maybe they could meet in Zimbabwe an fly on the 777 with the pretext of fostering good relations with the world’s great thinkers. Or maybe, if he really wants the nest of the best, he can fly BA first class. I’m sure he’ll love the buttons that adjust the seats.

  14. The logistics of the security from both sides for this meeting must be mind-boggling. Does Mongolia even have the infrastructure?

    Japan seems like a more logical option.

  15. @James, Japan has too much skin in this to be host. I think Singapore would be a more suitable venue.

  16. @Aztec, Singapore has too much skin in this to be host. I think Bangkok would be a more suitable venue.

  17. If Kim is going anywhere abroad then it can only be China..believe me they understand each other very well..and it is not only the common love for rice! Stormy Donald has to move his First Bum to China then and start loving Chinese food..I recommend to start with rice !

  18. Why not meet in Alaska? Isn’t that pretty close to North Korea? Alaska is a pretty neutral country?

  19. @ Bruce

    Wouldn’t there be a very bad reaction from the Japanese? There is still incredibly bad blood over the kidnappings.
    Just wait for Trump to announce that Kim is his new dear, dear friend and it has all been a terrible misunderstanding ( caused by Hillary). Repulsive old goat.

  20. @ paolo

    Kim the new friend of the US and therefore insult Japan!..not going to happen even under Stormy Donald’s regime. The western world wants peace between both Koreas living peacefully with its dont need to be best friends with them..just be a honest and reliable I have said before affection does not mean marrying someone and bringing this person in the family

  21. His recent visit to Beijing was by train. Why didn’t he fly? Makes me think his plane isn’t up for long trips at all.

    Also if he’s paranoid, then in-flight refueling or a fuel stop in another country may not work — he doesn’t want untrusted people near his plane.

  22. @ jim

    Kim just does not want to be blown away in pieces..the train is more secured..well, that is at least what they think..

  23. Air Koryo planned to relaunch flights to Europe a few years ago (probably via Moscow) with their Tu204s. I don’t see a problem here. IL62s have an even longer range

    And i still have to try their J class.

  24. Those commenters recommending Japan simply do not understand Asian geopolitics. Japan is NOT a friendly country to North Korea. No way he would go there.

    In fact, Japan isn’t even on the best of terms with South Korea. In some sense, SK and Japan are friends only as a matter of convenience, with historical animosity seething under the surface. During the Olympics this year, when a NBC commentator suggested during the Opening Ceremony that Koreans learned a lot from Japan, it caused such a large uproar in SK that NBC was forced to issue an apology.

  25. @Juraj, right on. Lucky, what did your research on this story say about the range capabilities of this aircraft? I was expecting to see that when I chose to read the story to support your assertion. I think the research that Juraj posted would show that this is just a media hype story that is being propagated here because it was seen elsewhere. Responsible journalism continues to die an agonizing death.

  26. @ jim

    ..on the spot..some do not understand geopolitics as they are not interested in knowing it..for some it is sadly enough to know what is the difference between Sushi and Kimchi from their local Chinese take-away around the corner…

  27. Well… That’s weird what you say. Il-62 was the first longhaul jet built in the Soviet Union. It served nonstop flights from Moscow to the US and Cuba for instance.

  28. Rumours are abiut organizing the meeting in Warsaw, Poland.

    One of North Korea’s biggest embassies is in Warsaw. Poland (as well as mentioned Switzerland and Sweden) used to be an observer in DMZ (as a country supporting North Korea).

    At the same time, Trump was met with a huge applause in Poland when he gave his first official speech outside of the US.

  29. Press reports are that the list is 5. Geneva, Sweden, Singapore and 3 others (not being China, DMZ, or USA).

    Other press reports list 9. Those Geneva, Sweden, Singapore plus Mongolia, Bangkok, Helsinki, Warsaw, Prague.

    I think it’s going to be Mongolia or Geneva. Mongolia might be reachable by train. Geneva is not too far from his old school. I think Geneva has the slight edge. Singapore, Sweden, and Thailand are next runners up.

  30. for me the great leader Kim should meet the great stormy Donald in the USA..yes, home advantage for the US ..Kim should experience that they have also strict and rigid controls like in North Korea brought to you by the TSA and other airport polices who have affinities to Asians!..Kim can meet and greet his favourite Basketball players and Cheerleaders..and he can talk about bombastic topics as Donald knows exactly how to fail bombastically..

  31. Nate,

    Sorry to be picky (but you were) … Lucky actually said ‘hasn’t FLOWN outside the country’ … which is 100% correct, he didn’t … he took the his train.

    Personally, I think they should both fly to a remote uninhabited island … then …. Kabooooom !

    The world would be a better place ….

  32. I’d put my money on Geneva whether or not Kim’s ride gets him there nonstop. You’d think Rocket Man would have better flight options……

  33. @Maya, Thailand has too much skin in this to be host. I think Hanoi would be a more suitable venue.

  34. They should just tweet at each other if they are not going to meet at the DMZ because anywhere else and it’s just another excuse for Donald to take a trip out of Washington. It just has to be the DMZ that is the entire purpose for us staffing it with all those US soldiers. I am sure after meeting with him Donald will talk about what a great leader Kim Jong Un, such a great leader, just fantastic.

  35. Whats funny is it looks like he’s flying but you can see the First Officer adjusting the autopilot.

  36. If he gets pissed off and drops a Nuke all ur 401K’s will be worth zero for a 1000 years .

  37. Panmunjom in the DMZ is the obvious meeting place for the following reasons: 1) Both sides can pretend to be on friendly turf. 2) Kim does not have to fly anywhere outside his country (if he took a train to Beijing instead of flying, I think he is probably afraid to fly anywhere outside his own country) . And I don’t think Kim will want to take the train 1500 plus miles to Mongolia. 3)
    The NYT thinks the DMZ is not flashy enough for Donald, but I think they are wrong on that. He can take all sorts of photo ops with the troops there.

    Of course, there is still a huge probability this meeting will never happen.

  38. He (and his father too) always travel by train. The movie in the cockpit is a show as he do that with every site visit he makes. (Mostly with 10 generals making notes of his wise words.)

  39. Saw a great cartoon in a newspaper when the meeting was first mentioned: 2 panels, Trump & an adviser in one, Kim & an adviser in the other & the caption for both was the adviser saying “Whatever you do, don’t mention his haircut”

  40. @ rw

    ..seriously I need to speak Korean in full sentence to understand the so called great leader Kim?!..I do not need to understand English to be appalled by Stormy Donald!..Jeez both are crazy! And crazy is a universal language!

  41. Just a tiny bit of North Korea bashing going on here, right?

    The “ancient” 747-200 Trump uses is just 2 years younger than the North Korean state IL-62. Adding to that the IL-62 can EASILY reach Europe without refuelling….

    So what’s the point of your post?

  42. Be careful everyone, the Trump administration may be forced to use blogs like this for insight into where to hold this meetings. All of the experts on this type of thing fled the government a little over a year ago.

  43. @AdamW

    You made me really laugh in OMAAT ?!..from some of us here ?!..pigs learn to fly first! ..non-stop or direct!..
    Well, frankly this is not a good allegory because some of these (sus scrofa domesticus) are even esteemed FIRST Class FF scavenging around the world’s finest First class lounges..

  44. Ha, Trump and Kim should rendezvous in Taiwan. That would give China a colossal hissy-fit.

  45. @LukeVader

    what are you smoking! Are you from Hongkong or what?..It will definitely make China mad that all rice in the country will go sour! A US president( it is still hard to see Donald as one) having a meeting with their North Korean, I mean ally..
    on a (in chinese words) over-rated rogue chinese province. This one huge kerfuffle in which even Stormy Donald with his 9 wives
    ..I mean 9 lives..won’t even survive. Little Kim won’t be even allowed to leave his magic kingdom anymore.. and how to manage this sleepy dragon’s rage afterwards..should Hongkong be sacrifice to pacifiy this awaken one! what is so funny now you silly padawan ! You to learn need more!

  46. Any chance we could give Debit a one way ticket over there. So over his idiotic comments that have nothing to do with this blog.

  47. @CMorgan

    ..just telling you.. debit has a sister! And this one tried to comment on one topic here like his esteem brother but cut out/censored by the watch out.. you do not know when the gremlins go out..

  48. DEBIT you are a liberal left wing brain dead moron!!! hoe the secret service reads your threat!!!

  49. Very American biased written.
    Beijing is the most likely candidate to host for a few primary reasons.
    1. Trump thinks he is friends and gets along with Xi. The relationship with China is not as bad as much of the American media makes it out to be. There are always some disagreements but both sides are working on this and it is not relevant in the discussion. Trump is sending a business delegation to China and foreign auto companies have done the best in China than they have in many years.
    2. Kim feels safe in China and is protected by the Chinese military. This is why the DMZ and Seoul are not candidates.
    3. Kim could take his train. This avoids the air problem as discussed in other comments but also many Asians tend to think trains are safer.

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