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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
Kim Jong Un’s personal ‘Chammae-1’ jet made its first public appearance since last year’s Singapore summit at a military air show held in Wonsan, pictures published by North Korean state TV over the weekend showed.
His Ilyushin 62M mid-range jet was shown flying near the dual-use military/civilian Wonsan Kalma International Airport with an escort of six Mig-29 fighters, the TV pictures revealed.
But it was not clear whether DPRK leader Kim Jong Un actually arrived in Wonsan aboard the Chammae-1 jet, with official state media making no mention of him using it.
It was also not clear whether the Chammae-1 actually landed at the airport, with pictures showing the aircraft appearing only to be making a low pass over the runway and not actually landing there.
However, it did mark the first sighting of the jet since the Singapore summit last year, when Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong used it to fly from Pyongyang while her brother took a specially chartered Air China flight.
Kim Jong Un has been known to use the Chammae-1 on several occasions before, most notably during a trip to Dalian last year and – using a similar IL-62M in Air Koryo livery – for a domestic inspection visit to far-flung Samjiyon, in the North of the DPRK.
But though the aircraft was seen relatively frequently in prior years, state media have not shown Kim using it personally since Dalian.
And while there was widespread anticipation he might use it to get to Singapore last year, that he flew on a specially chartered Air China Boeing 747 suggests there could be concerns about its airworthiness.
Furthermore, for his two most recent overseas summits, in both Hanoi and Vladivostok, Kim shunned using his jet and instead took his heavily armored train.
The inclusion of his jet at the air force display on Friday may, then, have merely been for ceremonial purposes.
Kim’s Chammae-1 aircraft has a range of about 10,000km, meaning it would be capable of flying even to the Western coast of the United States.
North Korea’s Air Koryo occasionally uses the same IL-62 type aircraft for flights between Pyongyang and Vladivostok, where large numbers of DPRK overseas workers enter and leave Russia from.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCTV