By Jack Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to check out his Russian-made limousine on Wednesday ahead of their summit, ceding the spacious back seat to his guest.
Putin and Kim on Wednesday inspected the space launch facilities of the modern Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East ahead of their summit, according to state television footage.
As they strolled to the main complex engaged in casual conversation, they came to Putin’s presidential Aurus limousine parked in the driveway, and the Russian president gestured to the vehicle as Kim stood seemingly curious.
Putin invited Kim to climb into the back seat and walked around to slide in next to the North Korean leader, who sat beaming.
North Korea’s KCNA news agency said on Thursday “Putin showed his private car to Kim Jong Un before having a warm talk”.
The Aurus Senat limousine was developed by the Russian state automotive institute known by its acronym NAMI.
Putin drove in the Aurus for the first time at his fourth inauguration in 2018, ditching his old stretch Mercedes in a patriotic message of self sufficiency.
Kim drove to the space station on Wednesday in his personal Maybach limousine, brought onboard the special train he travelled in from Pyongyang with a large entourage.
Kim is believed to be an automobile enthusiast, having been seen in several luxury cars, including different Mercedes models, a Lexus sports utility vehicle and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Those vehicles fall under luxury goods that U.N. member countries are banned from exporting to North Korea and are believed to have been smuggled in.
German manufacturer Daimler, which makes the Maybach, has said it had no idea how the vehicle and other Mercedes cars have been taken into the North and that it had no formal dealings with Pyongyang.
North Korea has a feeble auto industry with a handful of home-grown brands that build sedans and passenger buses. The most prominent is Pyeonghwa Motors, founded as a joint venture with investment from the South Korean company of the same name.
In 2018, then U.S. President Donald Trump allowed Kim a peek inside the U.S. presidential limousine known as “The Beast” during a break in their first summit in Singapore.
That time Kim did not get to climb in.
(Reporting by Jack Kim. Editing by Gerry Doyle)