SEOUL - The Air China Boeing 747 that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took to Singapore on Sunday (June 10) is the private jet of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Hong Kong's Apple Daily reported Monday (June 11).
Kim's usual mode of transport is his own aircraft, the Chammae-1, but he appears to have sought help from China due to safety concerns regarding the condition of his jet.
Chammae-1 is a reconstructed Ilyushin Il-62, a Soviet long-range jet airliner. It was discontinued in 1995.
Although the long-range jet can fly up to 10,000 kilometres, easily covering the 4,600-kilometre distance between Pyongyang and Singapore, the age of the jet could have deterred the North Korean leader from using it for his first overseas trip to a place other than China since taking power.
Apple Daily said Kim could have negotiated the loan with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Dalian, China, in May.
Four Boeing planes are used by the Chinese political leadership: B-2443, B-2445, B-2447, B-2472.
Xi's plane is the B-2472, while Premier Li's is the B-2447, the one Kim rode.
The B-2447 is a 23-year-old aircraft that serves as a normal passenger carrier when not in use by Li.
Whenever it is employed as a private jet, the interior of the plane is reupholstered into a private aircraft, complete with an office, reception area and bedroom.
Unlike the US' Air Force One, the B-2447 is not equipped with a defence system against artilleries.
According to South Korea's Yonhap news agency, analysts say it is very uncommon for the North's media to reveal the charter of a foreign airplane in its leader's overseas trip, particularly because the North Korean government has long promoted the Juche (self-reliance) ideology and slogans in all state affairs.
They speculate that the frank disclosure may have been made due to Kim's tendency of putting practical interests above loss of face and self-esteem.
There is also an analysis that Pyongyang has intentionally revealed the charter of a Chinese airplane to display a close bilateral relationship in the face of international sanctions led by the US.
US President Donald Trump and Kim arrived in Singapore on Sunday, ahead of their summit scheduled for Tuesday. Kim arrived at 2.36pm local time, while Trump arrived via Air Force One at 8.22pm.