Air China Boeing 747 carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un landed at Changi Airport, Singapore on Sunday, just before 3 pm. The Air China plane took off from Pyongyang as “Flight CA122” to Beijing, but then changed its flight number to “CA61” as it headed to Singapore.
As it was passing over the coastline of China’s southern region of Guangxi and the Bay of Tonkin, the plane carefully avoided flying within the so-called “Nine-dash line,” the demarcation line that China uses to indicate its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Slightly later North Korea’s official arrived in a Ilyushin-62M jet, which will act as a backup plane.
Usually Kim travels in an old Soviet-era aircraft, which has raised questions whether it could safely make the long trip to Singapore, which is about 4,700km from Pyongyang. China ensured the safety of North Korean leader, without being open, by having him fly over Chinese airspace, and use its own Air China Aircraft.
When Government official are taking a plane, the aircraft will undergo vigorous security checks. Earlier this century, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin ordered a plane from Boeing for the top officials, and the plane underwent a vigorous inspection that found 27 eavesdropping devices.
Kim may fear that similar espionage might takes place when he was flying in Air China. Kim’s use of the Chinese plane would provide an opportunity for his conversations be heard. Beijing might also try to find traces of DNA through Kim’s lost hair in the plane.
Kim has boasted about having his finger on the nuclear button. If that were true, china could analyze just how the nuclear button is handled by tracking his movement inside the plane.
The Korean Peninsula has been a battleground for great power rivalry for more than a century, with China and Russia competing with Japan and the U.S. However, Kim is busy weighing his options, careful not to tip the balance too far in anyone’s favor, while extracting the most concessions for Pyongyang.