Kim Jong-un hailed vic­tor in 'meet­ing of cen­tury' by North Korean me­dia

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Justin McCurry in Tokyo and agen­cies

North Korea has hailed Tues­day’s sum­mit be­tween Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as mark­ing the end to hos­tile re­la­tions with the US, with state me­dia de­pict­ing the meet­ing as a diplo­matic vic­tory for its leader.

Trump of­fered his own as­sess­ment as he landed back on US soil, tweet­ing that Py­ongyang no longer posed a nuclear threat.

In its first re­port on the sum­mit, North Korea’s of­fi­cial KCNA news agency of­fered a glow­ing ac­count of the talks, name-check­ing Kim 16 times.

The front page of the rul­ing work­ers’ party news­pa­per, the Rodong Sin­mun, mean­while, ran pho­tographs of Kim warmly shak­ing hands with Trump. It said the “meet­ing of the cen­tury” was held to bring an end to “ex­treme, hos­tile re­la­tions” be­tween the coun­tries.

KCNA said the talks were “epochmak­ing” and would help foster “a rad­i­cal switchover in the most hos­tile [North Korea]-US re­la­tions”.

It cred­ited Kim with cre­at­ing the con­di­tions for peace and sta­bil­ity on the Korean penin­sula.

Trump, KCNA said, “ap­pre­ci­ated that an at­mos­phere of peace and sta­bil­ity was cre­ated on the Korean penin­sula and in the re­gion, although dis­tressed with the ex­treme dan­ger of armed clash only a few months ago, thanks to the proac­tive peace-lov­ing mea­sures taken by the re­spected Supreme Leader from the out­set of this year”.

It also cel­e­brated what some have de­scribed as Kim’s rapid trans­for­ma­tion from re­viled dictator to states­man fol­low­ing the pos­i­tive re­cep­tion he re­ceived in Singapore.

“Singapore, the coun­try of the epoch-mak­ing meet­ing much awaited by the whole world, was awash with thou­sands of do­mes­tic and for­eign jour­nal­ists and a large crowd of masses to see this day’s mo­ment which will re­main long in his­tory,” it said.

The agency added that Kim and Trump had ac­cepted in­vi­ta­tions to visit their re­spec­tive coun­tries. “Kim Jong-un in­vited Trump to visit Py­ongyang at a con­ve­nient time and Trump in­vited Kim Jong-un to visit the US.

“The two top lead­ers gladly ac­cepted each other’s in­vi­ta­tion, con­vinced that it would serve as an­other im­por­tant oc­ca­sion for im­proved DPRK-US re­la­tions,” it said, ref­er­enc­ing the coun­try’s of­fi­cial name, the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea.

The sum­mit has been widely re­garded as a diplo­matic coup for North Korea, which re­peated its com­mit­ment to­wards de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion in a joint state­ment that of­fered no de­tails of how that would be achieved.

In re­turn, Trump, to the sur­prise of US ally South Korea and his own mil­i­tary, said he would end joint US-South Korea mil­i­tary ex­er­cises. Py­ongyang con­sid­ers the an­nual drills as a re­hearsal for in­va­sion.

Trump said the drills would not be held while North Korea was still talk­ing. “We’re not go­ing to be do­ing the war games as long as we’re ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith,” he told Fox News Chan­nel.

South Korean of­fi­cials and US mil­i­tary com­man­ders said they had had no ad­vance knowl­edge of Trump’s an­nounce­ment. Ja­pan’s de­fence min­is­ter said the US mil­i­tary pres­ence in South Korea and joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises were “vi­tal” for east Asian se­cu­rity. “We would like to seek an un­der­stand­ing of this be­tween Ja­pan, the US and South Korea,” It­sunori On­odera told re­porters.

On­odera said Ja­pan would con­tinue joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with the US and con­tinue to im­prove its de­fences against a pos­si­ble North Korean bal­lis­tic mis­sile strike.

Some an­a­lysts said Trump had made an un­nec­es­sary con­ces­sion. Ending the drills “is in ex­cess of all ex­pert con­sen­sus, South Korean re­quests, and even a close read­ing of North Korean de­mands”, said Adam Mount of the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Sci­en­tists.

Melissa Han­ham of the US-based Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies pointed out that Py­ongyang’s com­mit­ment to­wards de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion was noth­ing new. The regime had “al­ready promised to do this many times,” she said on Twit­ter, adding the two sides “still don’t agree on what ‘de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion’ means”.

On Wed­nes­day, Trump again hailed the sum­mit as his­toric.

The re­lease last month of three Amer­i­cans be­ing held by North Korea was se­cured dur­ing a sur­prise visit to Py­ongyang by the sec­re­tary of state, Mike Pom­peo. The date for Tues­day’s sum­mit was set just hours af­ter Tony Kim, Kim Hak-song and Kim Dong Chul ar­rived back in the US.

In an­other tweet on Wed­nes­day, Trump thanked Kim for tak­ing “the first bold step to­ward a bright new fu­ture for his peo­ple”, adding, “Our un­prece­dented meet­ing ... proves that real change is pos­si­ble!”

Just be­fore Air Force One took of from Singapore on Tues­day evening, Trump said he be­lieved that Kim – whom he re­ferred to as “lit­tle rocket man” last year – was a leader with whom he could do busi­ness. “I can only tell you that from the time I’ve dealt with him, which is re­ally start­ing 90 days ago ... I think he wants to get it done,” Trump said when asked if he had any doubts about Kim’s sin­cer­ity.

The pres­i­dent said Kim had im­me­di­ately agreed to his re­quest to re­turn the re­mains of Amer­i­can pris­on­ers of war and those who went miss­ing in ac­tion dur­ing the 1950-53 Korean war. “As soon as I had my first op­por­tu­nity, which was to­ward the end, I said could you do it. He said we will do it.”

But he was still vague on how Wash­ing­ton in­tended to ver­ify de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion. “We’re go­ing to have to check it and we will check it. We’ll check it very strongly.”

Asked if he trusted Kim, Trump said: “I do.”

Dur­ing Tues­day’s sum­mit, Kim said it was “ur­gent” for North Korea and the US to halt “ir­ri­tat­ing and hos­tile mil­i­tary ac­tions against each other”, KCNA re­ported.

“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 de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of the Korean Penin­sula,” it re­ported.

The North Korean leader was quoted as say­ing the regime could take more good­will mea­sures if the US re­cip­ro­cated with gen­uine mea­sures to build trust, and that the two coun­tries should take le­gal and in­sti­tu­tional steps to avoid an­tag­o­nis­ing each other. The re­port added that Trump said he “un­der­stood”.

South Korean me­dia were gen­er­ally pos­i­tive about the talks, but pointed out that im­por­tant ques­tions re­mained over the process and tim­ing of North Korean de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion.

“The sum­mit fell short of ex­pec­ta­tions of a road map for de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion, but the is­sue of dis­man­tling the North Korean nuclear pro­gramme and as­sur­ing the se­cu­rity of its regime – two key agenda items of the sum­mit – are as dif­fi­cult to solve as a tan­gled knot,” the Korea Herald said in an edi­to­rial.

The pa­per cau­tioned against any re­duc­tion in US forces based in South Korea, say­ing the bi­lat­eral al­liance was key to South Korean pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s abil­ity to foster fur­ther cross-bor­der de­tente and im­ple­ment the agree­ment.

“For Moon to per­form the role well, it is im­por­tant to up­hold a solid Korea-US al­liance. The al­liance is the ba­sis of South Korea’s diplo­macy and se­cu­rity. At its core are the US forces sta­tioned in Korea”, it said.

Pho­to­graph: kcna/EPA

A photo re­leased by the of­fi­cial North Korean Cen­tral News Agency (KCNA) shows the agree­ment signed by Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US pres­i­dent Donald Trump in Singapore on Tues­day.

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