North Korean media travel with the motorcade of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un towards Sentosa for his meeting with US President Donald Trump, in Singapore, Tuesday (12/06). (Reuters Photo/Edgar Su)

North Korean State Media Hails Kim-Trump Summit Success


JUNE 14, 2018

Seoul. The faces of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were first and foremost on North Korea's official party newspaper on Wednesday (13/06) as state media hailed Tuesday's historic summit between the two men.

The North's state media framed Tuesday's summit as a win for Pyongyang as it listed concessions made by Trump, with North Korea dubbing the summit in Singapore "the meeting of the century" on the front page of its official party newspaper. Trump expressed his intention to halt US-South Korea joint military exercises, offer security guarantees to the North and lift sanctions against it as relations improve, according to a report by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The US president had said in a press conference on Tuesday he would like to lift sanctions against North Korea but it would not happen immediately.

"Kim Jong-un and Trump had the shared recognition to the effect that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," KCNA said.

Denuclearization of North Korea was barely mentioned elsewhere in the statement, which mainly focused on stopping hostilities between North Korea and the United States. No mention was made of officially ending the state of war between North and South Korea after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce not a peace treaty.

Photographs of Trump and Kim Jong-un crowded the first half of Wednesday's six-page Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the pair in various situations at the summit venue in Singapore.

In one photo on the front page, Trump was featured gesturing the way forward for Kim Jong-un, while four of the eight photos on the front page featured them shaking hands.

Other pages showed US and North Korean officials having their extended meeting, a working lunch and later, Trump and Kim signing a joint agreement that marked the end to the summit.

Backdrops of US and North Korean flags, both red white and blue, were also prominent in the Rodong Sinmun, which has previously lashed the United States as a "gangster-like imperialist," and "cancer-like entity."

"Today's Rodong Sinmun wants to show Kim Jong-un played a huge part and seized a great victory," said Moon Hong-sik, research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS).

"If you look at just the North Korean reports from today it seems this week's summit existed to create a new peace regime on the Korean peninsula and a new relationship with the United States. Denuclearization was just an appendage," he said.

The newspaper had been quick off the mark to cover Kim Jong-un's trip, plastering it's Tuesday edition with pictures and stories of Kim travelling with officials and sightseeing.

Stop Hostilities

North Korea's official media brought a large number of reporters and camera operators to Singapore for the Kim trip, and they had access to various locations that was denied to media from elsewhere in the world.

According to KCNA, Kim Jong-un said it was "urgent" for North Korea and the United States to halt "irritating and hostile military actions against each other" during the talks on Tuesday.

Kim and Trump invited each other to their respective countries and both leaders "gladly accepted," KCNA reported.

Trump's pledge to end joint exercises with South Korea without explicit concessions from North Korea to lower the military threat posed by Pyongyang took South Korean and US military officials by surprise.

"For North Korea, they got exactly what they wanted," Moon Seong-mook, a former South Korean military official and current head of the Unification Strategy Center in Seoul. "They had a summit as a nuclear state with Kim on equal turf with Trump, got the United States to halt joint military exercises with South Korea. It's a win for Kim Jong-un."

Moon said the North's report should be confirmed from the US side, while another expert agreed the North Korean state media should be taken with a grain of salt.

"It's propaganda in the end," said Jeong Hyung-gon, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy. "They are expressing their thoughts in order to cover their weaknesses."

The 33 photos seen in Wednesday's Rodong Sinmun were far fewer than the 61 featured in the Rodong the day after the April 27 inter-Korean summit but the April event had been a one-day trip for Kim Jong-un while Kim was in Singapore for three.

The KCNA report noted that Kim and Trump walked together after lunch, "deepening friendly feelings" and held a "meaningful photo session" to commemorate the signing of the agreement.