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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean state media on Monday hailed yesterday’s “historic” surprise summit between the DPRK and U.S. leaders, reporting that DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed to “actively” push ahead with “productive dialogue.”
In coverage carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and party daily the Rodong Sinmun, state-run outlets reported that the two leaders had expressed “great satisfaction” over the outcome of the talks.
Kim and Trump held a “historic meeting on June 30 afternoon,” North Korean media said, reporting that the talks took place “at the suggestion” of the U.S. President and had created “unprecedented trust between the two countries.”
In a Korean-language report, media reiterated that the “respected and beloved Supreme Leader accepted the intention of President Trump to meet Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un on the occasion of his visit to South Korea between June 29 and 30.”
The leader went to the southern part of Panmunjom and held a meeting with Trump, it continued.
“Kim Jong Un stepped out of the Panmun Pavillion on 30th afternoon and had a historic meeting with the President of the United States of America Donald Trump just before the demarcation line in Panmunjom as the world watched.”
The “eyes and ears of the global village were concentrated on the Korean peninsula for a little more than a day since President Trump’s intention for meeting in Panmunjom was delivered to the world until the dramatic event happened,” the report said.
“The attention and interest on the news of the meeting between the DPRK and U.S. leaders in Panmunjom heated the planet which became enthusiastic with passion and excitement.”
Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, noted Pyongyang’s decision to “play up the meeting having taken place at the U.S. President’s proposal.”
“It appears to track with a narrative that state media has been promoting in recent months: that Kim Jong Un can rub shoulders with any head of state at his choosing, and that he enjoys a great personal chemistry with the President of the U.S. despite the lull in DPRK-U.S. dialogue,” Lee said.
“Emphasizing the Trump request angle also may have been intended to underscore for the domestic public the legitimacy of this last-minute, off-the-cuff meeting. The report also predictably plays up the DPRK-U.S. dialogue angle.”
DENUCLEARIZATION OF THE PENINSULA
A one-on-one meeting between Trump and Kim was held on Sunday, state media said, in which the two leaders discussed “issues of easing tensions on the Korean peninsula, terminating their unsavory relationship, and making a dramatic turn.”
The two leaders also discussed “each other’s concerns and matters of interest which had become an obstacle in resolving the issues and expressed full understanding and agreement.”
“The DPRK and U.S. leaders agreed to continue to keep in close touch in the future, and to resume and actively push ahead with productive dialogue to make a new breakthrough in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the DPRK-U.S. relations,” it said. “The DPRK and U.S. leaders expressed great satisfaction over the results of the talks.”
Rachel Minyoung Lee, the NK Pro senior analyst, said the inclusion of the phrase “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” in the coverage was notable.
“The report’s explicit mention of the ‘denuclearization of the Korean peninsula’ in both domestic and external media outlets is meaningful, as state media had skirted around the use of that expression after the Hanoi summit,” she said.
“This appears to suggest not only Pyongyang’s readiness to resume dialogue but a certain level of confidence that the dialogue will yield tangible results.”
KCNA and the Rodong Sinmun also briefly included opening comments delivered by Kim in their coverage, reporting that the leader had said “a dramatic meeting like today could take place in one day due to my excellent friendly relationship with President Trump.”
“His excellent relationship with President Trump will continue to make good results which others cannot anticipate and serves as a miraculous force to overcome the difficulties and obstacles to be faced.”
Media also, notably, reported that North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had attended the meeting.
Pompeo on Sunday confirmed that the DPRK foreign ministry would serve as his counterpart at upcoming working-level talks agreed to during the Panmunjom summit — suggesting former top U.S.-DPRK interlocutor and party official Kim Yong Chol will no longer lead negotiations.
HISTORIC PANMUNJOM MEETING, UNPRECEDENTED TRUST
In its coverage of the surprise meeting, North Korean media appeared keen to highlight the significance of Sunday’s impromptu Panmunjom meeting.
“An amazing reality — which the DPRK and U.S. leaders held hand and exchanged historic handshakes at Panmunjom that has been the symbol of division — happened 66 years after the armistice agreement in 1953.”
KCNA and the Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim had guided Trump to the northern part of Panmunjom after exchanging greetings, in a meeting which took place 120 days after the two met in Hanoi.
The two were reported to have “held hands once again stepping toward… the northern part of Panmunjom,” the media said, saying a “historic moment — that an incumbent U.S President crossed the military demarcation line and stepped into our territory for the first time — has been recorded.”
“The historic scene — that the North, South Korean and U.S. leaders freely crossed the line of the division at the military demarcation line in the demilitarized line, the fruits of hostility and confrontation — shock the world,” DPRK media reported.
“It also showed that a new history of reconciliation and peace has begun at Panmunjom, which has a long history of distrust, misunderstanding, conflict, and antagonism.”
North Korean media said the “bold, great, and brave decision which widely opened the door of division in Panmunjom — which was firmly closed as the symbol of confrontation and conflict — and led to the meeting of the century which will go beyond the history.”
The determination of Trump and Kim, it continued, resulted in a “marvelous event that has created unprecedented trust between the two countries that have been at feud and quarrel as a deep-rooted hostile country.”
Monday’s edition of the Rodong Sinmun dedicated three pages featuring a number of photos of Kim and Trump in the truce village of Panmunjom, including several photos of South Korean President Moon Jae-in — who was also present — on the second and third page.
But while the South Korean President accompanied Trump on his visit to Panmunjom, North Korean media only briefly reported on his presence, saying that Moon had greeted Kim in front of the Freedom House and exchanged greetings.
“President Trump and Moon Jae-in warmly saw respected and beloved Supreme Leader off coming to the demarcation line in Panmunjom,” the reports said.
NK Pro analyst Lee said the “North’s handling of South Korea was clever.”
“By only briefly acknowledging Kim’s exchange of greetings with South Korean President Moon at Panmunjom, the North Korean report effectively sidelined Seoul and underscored once again that the principal parties to the nuclear talks are the DPRK and the U.S. — a message that a Foreign Ministry official conveyed via the North’s external news agency KCNA just last week,” she said.
“The North, however, seemed to give some acknowledgment to inter-Korean relations and possibly even Moon himself by publishing in the party daily multiple photos with Moon in them, including Kim laughing with Moon.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA