SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were splashed across North Korea’s official party newspaper on Wednesday as state media hailed Tuesday’s historic summit between the two men.
The North’s state media framed Tuesday’s summit as a win for Pyongyang as it listed concessions made by Trump, with North Korea’s official party newspaper Rodong Sinmun dubbing the summit in Singapore “the meeting of the century” on its front page.
Trump expressed his intention to halt U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, offer security guarantees to the North and lift sanctions against it as relations improve, according to a report by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“Kim Jong Un and Trump had the shared recognition to the effect that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” KCNA said.
The same report was later read by star North Korean broadcaster Ri Chun Hee on state television. Ri is best remembered outside North Korea for her emotional deliveries of the deaths of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather.
The 75-year-old grandmother usually takes to the air for major announcements, including ebulliently reporting the news of North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test last September.
Photographs of Trump and Kim Jong Un crowded the first half of Wednesday’s six-page Rodong Sinmun, the pair in various situations at the summit venue in Singapore.
In one photo on the front page, Trump was featured gesturing the way forward for Kim Jong Un, while four of the eight photos on the front page featured them shaking hands.
Other pages showed U.S. and North Korean officials having their extended meeting, a working lunch and later, Trump and Kim signing a joint agreement that marked the end to the summit.
Backdrops of U.S. and North Korean flags, both red white and blue, were also prominent in the Rodong Sinmun, which has previously lashed the United States as a ‘gangster-like imperialist’, and ‘cancer-like entity’.
“Today’s Rodong Sinmun wants to show Kim Jong Un played a huge part and seized a great victory,” said Moon Hong-sik, research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS).
“If you look at just the North Korean reports from today it seems this week’s summit existed to create a new peace regime on the Korean peninsula and a new relationship with the United States. Denuclearisation was just an appendage,” he said.
The newspaper had been quick off the mark to cover Kim Jong Un’s trip, plastering it’s Tuesday edition with pictures and stories of Kim travelling with officials and sightseeing.
North Korea’s official media brought a large number of reporters and camera operators to Singapore for the Kim trip, and they had access to various locations that was denied to media from elsewhere in the world.
According to KCNA, Kim Jong Un said it was “urgent” for North Korea and the United States to halt “irritating and hostile military actions against each other” during the talks on Tuesday.
Kim and Trump invited each other to their respective countries and both leaders “gladly accepted”, KCNA reported.
Trump’s pledge to end joint exercises with South Korea without explicit concessions from North Korea to lower the military threat posed by Pyongyang took South Korean and U.S. military officials by surprise.
“For North Korea, they got exactly what they wanted,” Moon Seong-mook, a former South Korean military official and current head of the Unification Strategy Centre in Seoul. “They had a summit as a nuclear state with Kim on equal turf with Trump, got the United States to halt joint military exercises with South Korea. It’s a win for Kim Jong Un.”
Moon said the North’s report should be confirmed from the U.S. side, while another expert agreed the North Korean state media should be taken with a grain of salt.
“It’s propaganda in the end,” said Jeong Hyung-gon, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy. “They are expressing their thoughts in order to cover their weaknesses.”
The 33 photos seen in Wednesday’s Rodong Sinmun were far fewer than the 61 featured in the Rodong the day after the April 27 inter-Korean summit but the April event had been a one-day trip for Kim Jong Un while Kim was in Singapore for three.
The KCNA report noted that Kim and Trump walked together after lunch, “deepening friendly feelings” and held a “meaningful photo session” to commemorate the signing of the agreement.
Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Lincoln Feast