Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader, arrives in Moscow tonight at the end of his 5,800-mile train journey across Russia on the Trans-Siberian railway, which has been reported with ever increasing fascination by the Russian media.
A Russian tabloid newspaper was even reporting yesterday that Mr Kim's green-coloured armoured train had been shot at, and printed a picture of what it claimed were bullet holes in one of the 21 coaches.
The daily Komsomolskaya Pravda said experts had identified the white spots on the coach panelling as made by 7.62mm rounds fired from an AK-47 automatic rifle.
It is unlikely, if there had been an attempt on Mr Kim's life, that his train would still be pulling along a bullet-riddled carriage as evidence. An official at the North Korean embassy in Moscow solemnly denied any assassination attempt. Mr Kim – who made his epic train journey reportedly because of a fear of flying – will stay in the Kremlin tonight and hold talks with President Vladimir Putin tomorrow. The two leaders will then sign a joint declaration about their shared attitude to world affairs.
But the main diplomatic interest in the visit is North Korea's response to allegations that its missiles potentially threaten the US, and justify the Americans ditching the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972.
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