The citizens of North Korea were informed Wednesday about Kim Jong Un’s historic summit with U.S. president Donald Trump — a whole day after the world watched the choreographed spectacle in Singapore.
Even without spin, the summit appeared to be a success for the North Korean despot. Yet the regime’s tightly-controlled media still found a fresh take on the outcome, claiming Kim had been the architect of the “epoch-making” summit and that he had emerged as the undisputed winner from his interaction with Trump in what was described as “the meeting of the century.”
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper dedicated its first four pages to coverage and photos from the summit. For most North Koreans, this is their first chance to see a picture of the U.S. president, according to NK Pro analyst Fyodor Tertitskiy.
The KCNA news agency reported that Kim not only secured the end of America’s provocative “war games” with South Korea, he also got U.S. to agree to lift sanctions — a condition Trump specifically said was not the case during his Tuesday press conference.
“Trump expressed his intention to halt the U.S.–South Korea joint military exercises, which the DPRK side regards as provocation, over a period of good-will dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S., offer security guarantees to the DPRK and [to] lift sanctions against it along with advance in improving the mutual relationship through dialogue and negotiation,” KCNA said.
This is at odds with the White House version. “The sanctions will come off when we are sure that the nukes are no longer a factor. Sanctions played a big role, but they’ll come off at that point. I hope it’s going to be soon, but they’ll come off. As you know, and as I’ve said, the sanctions right now remain,” Trump said Tuesday.
Trump did say that he would hold off imposing 300 new sanctions on North Korea ahead of the summit because it would have been “disrespectful.”
Neither the KCNA nor Rodong Sinmun mentioned Trump’s claim that Kim had agreed to destroy a “major missile engine testing site.”
While the rest of the world ingested every moment of the summit, in North Korea the state broadcaster showed an opera about miners, ensuring its citizens remained in the dark until after the event.
This tactic of delaying coverage allows Kim and his government to control the narrative and portray the leader as an equal to Trump on the world stage.
The KCNA report said Trump expressed his gratitude to Kim for creating the conditions for peace and stability in the region “thanks to the proactive peace-loving measures” taken by the North Korean dictator in recent months.
It also revealed that Kim had accepted an invitation to visit the White House, and that Trump had reciprocated by accepting an invitation to visit Pyongyang in the future. No specific date has been set for either visit.
While North Korea was informing his citizens of Kim’s glorious entrance onto the international stage, Trump was lashing out at those who questioned his ability to conduct complex foreign policy negotiations.
Trump’s actual concession to Kim — in return for nothing — was the end of “war games” with South Korea, though it appears neither the government in Seoul nor the U.S. armed forces were told ahead of the announcement, prompting fears Trump may be conducting international affairs on a whim.
Japan, which relies on the protection of the U.S. military, was also surprised by the revelation. “We would like to seek an understanding of this between Japan, the U.S., and South Korea,” Japan’s defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, said Wednesday. Another regional ally, Australia, cast doubt on whether the military exercises had really been suspended.
Cover image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a historic U.S.-DPRK summit with U.S. President Donald Trump (unseen) at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images)