North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is using Daimler limousines but the company doesn’t know how he got them

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The German car manufacturer that makes armoured limousines used by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un says it has no idea where he got them and has no business dealings with his country.

Key points:

  • Daimler says it has not had official dealings with North Korea for more than 15 years
  • The vehicle manufacturer says it cannot control third-party sales
  • Mr Kim’s limousine is believed to be equipped with all key communication and entertainment systems offered

Mr Kim has raised eyebrows by using Daimler-branded stretch limousines at several high-profile summits, including his meeting this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin and both of his earlier summits with President Donald Trump.

The sale of luxury goods, including limousines, is banned under UN sanctions intended to put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.

Mr Kim nevertheless had two limos waiting for him at Vladivostok station — a Mercedes Maybach S600 Pullman Guard and a Mercedes Maybach S62.

A sleek, stretched black limo bearing North Korean and Russian flags drives past lines of soldiers standing to attention.
Mr Kim travelled around Vladivostok in one of the armoured limousines. (AP: Alexander Khitrov)

He is believed to have also used the S600 Pullman Guard for his summits with Mr Trump in Singapore in June last year and in Vietnam in February.

“We have absolutely no idea how those vehicles were delivered to North Korea,” Daimler spokeswoman Silke Mockert said.

“For Daimler, the correct export of products in conformance with the law is a fundamental principle of responsible entrepreneurial activity.”

Daimler, which is based in Stuttgart, is one of the world’s biggest and more-prestigious automobile companies.

It is one of the biggest providers of high-end passenger cars and some trucks.

A black limousine surrounded by police motorcycles drives past the Hanoi Opera House.
Mr Kim’s ability to obtain the cars demonstrates how sanctions can be flouted. (AP: Vincent Yu)

Third-party sales ‘beyond our control and responsibility’

The multinational giant boasts of selling vehicles and services in nearly all the countries of the world and of having production facilities in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa.

North Korea, however, is not one of its official customers.

Aboard Kim’s mystery train

When North Korea’s leaders need to travel, they travel in a train that is unlike any other.

“Our company has had no business connections with North Korea for far more than 15 years now and strictly complies with EU and US embargoes,” Ms Mockert said.

“To prevent deliveries to North Korea and to any of its embassies worldwide, Daimler has implemented a comprehensive export-control process.

“Sales of vehicles by third parties, especially of used vehicles, are beyond our control and responsibility.”

Mr Kim’s ability to procure the limousines anyway is a good example of how porous the international sanctions tend to be.

According to Daimler, the Mercedes-Benz Pullman limousines offer passengers “a superbly appointed setting for discreet meetings”.

The version used by Mr Kim is believed to be equipped with all the key communications and entertainment systems.

According to a company description of the car, its occupants can remain, “fully in touch with the rest of the world while enjoying the luxury and comfort of their own very special place in it”.

A smiling man exits a shining black limousine while the door is held open by a staffer
Mr Kim had two of the limousines waiting for him when he arrived in Russia. (AP: Yuri Kadobnov)

Kim warns of a return to tension, blames US ‘bad faith’

At their meeting, Mr Kim told Mr Putin peace and security on the Korean peninsula depended on the US, warning a state of hostility could easily return, North Korean media said.

The remarks will likely add to pressure on the US to be more flexible on a North Korean demand for an easing of international sanctions.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula and the region is now at a standstill and has reached a critical point where it may return to its original state as the US took a unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second … summit talks,” North Korea’s KCNA reported Mr Kim as saying.

“[North Korea] will gird itself for every possible situation.”

Two men in suits shake hands as the stand in front of North Korean and Russian flags
Mr Putin has accepted an invitation to visit North Korea.(AP: Korean Central News Agency)

The first face-to-face talks between Mr Putin and Mr Kim, held on an island off the Russian Pacific city, did not appear to yield any major breakthrough.

Russia and North Korea agreed to increase cooperation in various areas and Mr Kim invited Mr Putin to visit North Korea, and he accepted, KCNA said.

No date was announced.

Mr Kim left Russia for Pyongyang on his private train hours earlier than planned after his delegation requested to cut his visit short.