April 12, 2018 10:30
No North Korean aircraft could reliably fly North Korean leader Kim Jong-un across the Pacific Ocean or to Europe without stopping, the Washington Post said Tuesday.
Kim has three jets, the most powerful being a Cold War-era Ilyushin IL-62 manufactured in the Soviet Union.
But even that plane, which the daily dubbed "Air Force Un," is superannuated, and all three often break down.
In 2014, an Ilyushin IL-62 of the North's flag carrier Air Koryo carrying Kim's right-hand man Choe Ryong-hae was on its way from Moscow to Pyongyang but had to turn back due to a mechanical failure.
Most experts believe that the plane is not capable of flying over 9,000 km across the Pacific due to its age and lack of maintenance.
It would be difficult for it to stop en route for refueling and maintenance given international sanctions against the North.
"If Kim took his own plane, stopping to refuel on the way to any summit could also prove embarrassing by highlighting the limits of the aircraft -- and where to stop would be complicated, as well, given the number of countries that have put sanctions on North Korea," the daily said.
Instead, the North could borrow a plane from Russia or China, but this may not be a good idea because it could be wiretapped and damage the image of the "leader who stands up to the world's most powerful nation," which Kim wants to project.
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