North Korean leader Kim Jong Un kicked off an official visit to Vietnam Friday, three days after arriving in the country for a nuclear summit with US President Donald Trump that ended deadlocked.
Kim put aside the troubled negotiations for the pageantry of a formal diplomatic occasion in Hanoi, where — accompanied by his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong — he was received by Vietnam President and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.
The smiling leader walked before rows of children waving Vietnamese and North Korean flags outside the mustard-yellow colonial-era Presidential Palace, before inspecting an honour guard.
The long-isolated North is increasingly seeking to portray itself as acountry like any other, and Vietnam is Kim’s fourth foreign destination inless than 12 months, after not leaving his borders for more than six yearsfollowing his inheritance of power.
He has travelled to China four times for meetings with President XiJinping, walked across the border with South Korea for a summit withPresident Moon Jae-in, and went to Singapore for his first summit with Trump.
But for protocol purposes Kim’s trips do not rank as state visits, as heis not North Korea’s head of state — his grandfather Kim Il Sung retains thetitle of Eternal President even though he died in 1994.
Instead Kim is officially chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Koreaand chairman of the State Affairs Commission, although he is most commonly referred to as the “Supreme Leader”.
The North’s state KCNA news agency described it as an “official goodwillvisit” to Vietnam.
Curious onlookers lined the streets Friday to catch a glimpse of Kim —the first North Korean leader to visit Vietnam since his grandfather in 1964. But not all were impressed.
“The summit failed. I don’t know how much Vietnam has spent on this, butit must be a lot,” Hanoi resident Tu Mai, 40, told AFP.