In North Korea, Kim big win­ner of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion sum­mit

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY ERIC TAL­MADGE

PY­ONGYANG, NORTH KOREA | The news on tele­vi­sion and the front page of the rul­ing Work­ers’ Party news­pa­per was some­thing North Kore­ans never would have imag­ined just months ago — their leader Kim Jong-un warmly shak­ing hands with Pres­i­dent Trump.

One day after the meet­ing be­tween Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump in Sin­ga­pore, North Korea’s state-run me­dia were filled with im­ages of its beam­ing leader stand­ing as an equal on the in­ter­na­tional stage with the pres­i­dent of the most pow­er­ful coun­try in the world — a re­minder of just how much of a pro­pa­ganda coup the North saw in Tues­day’s un­prece­dented sum­mit.

Dub­bing it the start of a new re­la­tion­ship be­tween their coun­tries, which are still tech­ni­cally at war, Py­ongyang’s first re­ports Wed­nes­day stressed to the North Korean peo­ple that Mr. Trump agreed at Mr. Kim’s de­mand to halt joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea as long as talks to­ward eas­ing ten­sions con­tinue and sug­gested that Mr. Trump also said he would lift sanc­tions as nega­tions pro­gressed.

“Pres­i­dent Trump 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,” the North’s state-run Korean Cen­tral News Agency said in a sum­mary of the meet­ing.

The me­dia mes­sage to the masses was clear: This is a big suc­cess for Mr. Kim and the re­sult of his wise lead­er­ship.

Kim Ky­ong-sun, who watched the news on a large screen out­side Py­ongyang’s main train sta­tion, said she felt a “rad­i­cal change” was un­der­way in her coun­try’s re­la­tion­ship with the United States, which she said has been a hos­tile na­tion.

But she quickly added: “As long as we have [Mr. Kim], the fu­ture of our coun­try will be bright.”

Mr. Kim has framed his diplo­matic about-face with South Korea and the U.S. as a nat­u­ral next step now that Py­ongyang boasts a cred­i­ble and vi­able nu­clear arse­nal ca­pa­ble of keep­ing the U.S. at bay. The fram­ing that he went into the sum­mit as an equal and from a po­si­tion of strength is cru­cial within North Korea, after en­dur­ing years of tough sanc­tions while it pur­sued its nu­clear am­bi­tions.

Mr. Kim’s vows to de­nu­cle­arize were re­ported by state me­dia Wed­nes­day within that con­text — that Py­ongyang would re­spond to eas­ing of what it sees as the hos­tile U.S. pol­icy with com­men­su­rate but grad­ual moves to­ward “the com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.”

That doesn’t seem to pin the North down to the concrete and uni­lat­eral mea­sures Mr. Trump and Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said they would de­mand go­ing into the talks. It’s also un­clear what sig­nif­i­cant changes could oc­cur now that they seem to be mov­ing to­ward more peaceful re­la­tions.

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