In North Korea, Kim big winner of denuclearization summit
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.