North Korean state media outlets have refrained from mentioning key topics of contention with the United States ahead of a forthcoming summit meeting between Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald J. Trump.
Although official media outlets haven’t yet confirmed the U.S.-DPRK summit will even take place, English language articles tracked at the KCNA Watch site show no mention of several key issues since shortly after Trump accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un on March 8.
Despite trumpeting over a hundred times that the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test was evidence Pyongyang has completed its “state nuclear force” since November 28, the term hasn’t been mentioned by state media since March 3.
Trump, who is normally mentioned in official media in an extremely negative light, was last reported on in the weekly English language Pyongyang Times newspaper on March 11.
Meanwhile, keywords reflecting ongoing joint U.S.-ROK military drills, like “key resolve, drills, foal eagle,” have not been mentioned since March 08.
North Korean state media normally erupts about the joint drills on an annual basis, making their absence this year particularly notable.
And mentions of words like “nuclear” and “missile” have – since Trump accepted Kim’s invitation – only been in context of “nuclear physics” and regarding missile acquisition plans by the South Korean military.
“North Korean media is as much about what they don’t say as what they do,” said Christopher Green, a researcher with the International Crisis Group. “Very few messages are direct and explicit, for one thing, and they work hard to control the message.”
“In this case, they are self-censoring to avoid mentions of controversial matters that might negatively impact on future talks, potentially reducing the chance of whatever North Korea would regard as success,” Green said.
“This is, of course, a public relations exercise.
“If they want the world to focus on Kim’s easygoing attitude to K-pop, for example, it is detrimental to also be spewing vitriol about military exercises,” he concluded. “That’s the advantage of their media structure: message discipline.”
Main picture: Eric Lafforgue
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