SEOUL – U.S. President Donald Trump agreed that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula would require a step-by-step approach and made a number of other concessions, North Korean state media reported on Wednesday after his historic meeting with leader Kim Jong Un.
The North’s state media framed Tuesday’s summit as a win for Pyongyang, dubbing it “the meeting of the century” on the front page of its official party newspaper.
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).
The U.S. president had said in a press conference on Tuesday he would like to lift sanctions against North Korea but it would not happen immediately.
“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 denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” KCNA said.
There was little else mention of denuclearization of North Korea in the statement, which mainly focused on stopping hostilities between North Korea and the United States.
Photographs of Trump and Kim Jong Un crowded the first half of Wednesday’s six-page Rodong Sinmun newspaper, featuring the two shaking hands, sitting together and walking alongside each other at the summit venue in Singapore.
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.
“North Korea seems to be highlighting this as one of Kim Jong Un’s greatest feats yet and lauding itself for keeping the North Korean regime from collapsing while succeeding in shaking up the U.S.-South Korean alliance,” said Moon Seong-mook, a former South Korean military official and current head of the Unification Strategy Center in Seoul.
“For North Korea, they got exactly what they wanted. 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.
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.
North Korea and the United States should commit to avoid antagonizing each other and take legal, institutional steps to guarantee it, the KCNA report quoted Kim as saying.
The report added Trump said he “understood” and promised to halt joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises while talks with the North were continuing.
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.
The analyst, Moon, advised 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 less than the 50 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.
In Wednesday’s KCNA report, Kim Jong Un said that if the U.S. side took “genuine measures for building trust”, North Korea would continue to take “additional good-will measures of next stage commensurate with them”.
The 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.