An article at a North Korean government propaganda site predicted a “major breakthrough” in upcoming talks between dictator Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday, shortly before the official state newspaper urged North Koreans to “tighten [their] shoe strings” to prepare for national changes.
Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim on February 27 in Vietnam. The media reports this weekend and on Monday are the first official North Korean government acknowledgment the talks are happening. American officials have not provided any details regarding the conversation planned between the two world leaders, though they are expected to discuss ending North Korea’s illegal nuclear program.
Shortly before traveling to South Korea to prepare for the Trump-Kim summit, U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun admitted that the two sides do not have “a specific and agreed definition” for the word “denuclearization,” making negotiations towards the goal of denuclearization difficult. North Korea has repeatedly defined the term as a full expulsion of America’s military presence from the Korean peninsula, as Washington is a nuclear-armed power.
Meari, a North Korean government propaganda website, posted an article Sunday claiming that North Korea is seeking “to build a permanent and stable peace regime,” not to develop more nuclear weapons, according to a translation from the South Korean newswire service Yonhap.
“There’s no reason North Korea-U.S. relations can’t have a major breakthrough, as we have seen in inter-Korean relations,” the website argued.
“It’s a strategic decision on our part to build a permanent and stable peace regime and to honor an important responsibility we have before the international community,” the article continued. “It also reflects our strong determination to realize the objective of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Meari concluded arguing that North Korea has little left to do following the first summit between Kim and Trump, which took place in Singapore last June. At that summit, both sides agreed to work towards “denuclearization” without defining the term and North Korea specifically promised to return the remains of American soldiers killed during the active period of the Korean War (1950-1953). North Korea did return some remains later in 2018.
The propaganda website insisted on Sunday that the return of the remains was enough for the United States to “respond” with actions of their own. While Meari did not specify what actions it hoped to see, the North Korean regime has repeatedly demanded an end to international sanctions on its most lucrative industries, particularly coal and seafood. The Trump administration has insisted it would not lift sanctions until North Korea fully proved it had dismantled its illegal nuclear program.
North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since September 2017. Recent studies suggest that it has not dismantled its nuclear program or taken proactive steps to do away with remaining fissile material. Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) revealed last week that, by its estimates, North Korea has enough nuclear fuel to build seven more bombs.
The Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) described North Korea as an “immediate threat” to the United States in its annual posture statement published last week.
“Kim warned in his 2019 New Year’s speech of a potential ‘new path,’ which could indicate an eventual return to missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) testing,” Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of INDOPACOM, told Congress last week. “Our military combat readiness and combined lethality remain the best deterrent and the best leverage against any threat from North Korea.”
The state newspaper Rodong Sinmun continued to insist on Monday that the communist regime seeks “independence, peace, and friendship.”
“Developing the relations with all the friendly countries is a consistent principled stand of the WPK [Workers’ Party of Korea] and the government of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] in pursuing the foreign policy,” Rodong Sinmun argued. “The foreign policy is the most advantageous and just one helping establish and develop external relations with all the countries which respect the sovereignty of the DPRK and are friendly toward it irrespective of differences in idea and social system.”
In another article Monday highlighted by Yonhap, the newspaper advised North Koreans to “tighten our shoe strings and run fast, looking for a higher target as we are facing a decisive moment.”
“This is all about patriotism, conviction and will,” it continued. “With the nation-first sprit in mind, let’s try to demonstrate our nation’s dignity and stature to the world with every single creature.”
The newspaper did not specifically mention the Trump-Kim summit.
Trump announced the official date for the summit, expected to last into February 28, during his State of the Union Address this month.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Trump told Congress. “Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months. If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”
Kim will reportedly arrive for the summit early, on February 25, for scheduled talks with Vietnamese officials. Vietnam is a communist country but maintains friendly relations with the United States and has managed to sustain a functional economy, something that has eluded North Korea for decades. Kim’s visit will be the first by a North Korean communist dictator since grandfather Kim Il-song visited in 1964.