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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korean state-run media gave a largely positive review of Thursday’s summit meetings in Hanoi between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, calling it an event of “great significance in building mutual trust.”
A report published Friday by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) referred multiple times to the goals of creating a new relationship and to “completely denuclearize” the Korean Peninsula as spelled out in the Singapore agreement signed last June.
“Remarkable progress” has been made on these fronts since then, it said, adding that the two leaders had a “constructive and candid exchange” in their meetings in Vietnam over the practical issues in developing their relations.
Thursday’s talks, the second day of the second Trump-Kim summit in nine months, “offered an important occasion to deepen mutual respect and trust and to put the relations between the two countries on a new stage,” the KCNA report said.
Emphasizing a positive outcome from the talks, the report repeated that “proactive measures” from both sides since last summer to “preserve peace on the Korean peninsula and completely denuclearize it were of great significance in building mutual trust and making a fundamental turn” in their relations.
But it also appeared to signal an existing sense of urgency to come to an agreement despite the two sides’ failure to reach a deal in Hanoi, saying that Kim and Trump “listened to each other’s views on the issues to be resolved without fail at the present phase.”
The two leaders “agreed to keep in close touch with each other for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and the further development of relations, the report said.
The two sides will also “continue productive dialogues for settling the issues discussed at the Hanoi Summit,” it added.
Images of Trump and Kim Jong Un’s second day of meetings, along with the KCNA article, were also carried on the front page of ruling party-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Friday, suggesting that Kim Jong Un hopes to project the summit as a success to the domestic audience.
But North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho offered a more critical take on the summit’s outcome in a midnight press conference from Hanoi on Thursday – criticisms which did not make it into Friday morning’s state media coverage.
From Hanoi, Ri said the two sides failed to come to an agreement due to unwillingness from the U.S. to lift economic sanctions put in place since 2016.
“In detail, we proposed the United States lift five sanctions resolutions – which were adopted between 2016 and 2017 and impede the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people – among 11 UN sanctions resolutions all together,” Ri told reporters.
In exchange, North Korea was offering to “permanently and completely dismantle all of the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area including plutonium and uranium in the presence of U.S. experts and a joint work of technicians from both countries,” according to Ri.
The brief KCNA report on Friday did not, however, include any mention of the North’s demands with regards to sanctions.
Earlier in the day, President Trump said he “walked” from the negotiations due to demands he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo considered too high.
“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said at a post-summit press briefing alongside Pompeo.
The Secretary of State agreed, saying at the press conference that “unfortunately, we didn’t get all the way that ultimately made sense for the United States of America.”
“I think chairman Kim was hopeful that we would. We asked him to do more. He was unprepared to do that, but I’m optimistic,” he added.
Pompeo spoke again later on Thursday of his confidence that talks would get back on track in the near future, saying no date has been set but that he was “hopeful that Special Representative (Stephen) Biegun and that team will get together before too long.”
Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un is expected to begin a two-day official state visit in Vietnam on Friday, before departing via train back through China on his way to Pyongyang.
Speculation is growing that Kim may stop to hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, where a North Korean foreign ministry delegation reportedly traveled on Thursday.
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun