Train possibly taking Kim Jong Un to summit enters China

Shop owner Truong Thanh Duc displays summit-themed T-shirts in Hanoi

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un departed Pyongyang on Saturday aboard a special train that will take him through China to Vietnam, where he is set to meet with US President Donald Trump next week.

Vietnamese police officers stand guard outside the media center of the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 23, 2019.

Kim left the North Korean capital of Pyongyang at around 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) in an armoured train, TASS said, citing a North Korean diplomatic source.

The Vietnamese foreign ministry said on Saturday that Kim would "pay an official visit to Vietnam in the coming days".

North Korea's state media has yet to confirm either Kim's trip to Vietnam or his summit with Trump.

He is expected to arrive in Vietnam on February 25.

It could take Kim at least two and a half days to travel thousands of kilometres through China by train to Vietnam.

It was unclear if Kim was on the train.

According to state officials, Trump spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe via telephone last Wednesday prior to the Vietnam summit with Kim.

It came after Vietnam announced the unprecedented move of closing that 170km stretch of road on Tuesday between 6am and 2pm - suggesting Kim could travel on the road between those hours.

"China wants North Korea to make some steps to denuclearise as much as anyone else".

Security was tight before the train's arrival, with police cordoning off the riverfront some 100m from the bridge with tape and metal barriers, and leading an AFP journalist out of the area. The vehicle resembles the train used by Kim Jong Un for a visit to Beijing last month.

Rail travel is a family tradition that was started by Kim's grandfather, the North's founder Kim Il Sung.

American intelligence officials have said they believe Kim is unlikely to ever relinquish all of his nuclear arsenal, and United Nations monitors have reported that in recent months North Korea had taken steps to hide, disperse and protect its weapons. Their first summit last June in Singapore ended without substantive agreements and triggered a months-long stalemate in negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang as they struggled with the sequencing of North Korea's nuclear disarmament and the removal of USA -led sanctions against the North.

The preferred location for the summit is the Government Guesthouse, a colonial-era building in central Hanoi, three sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

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