According to South Korean news reports, North Korean propaganda has told its citizens that the summits are not grave discussions of denuclearization, but rather a triumphant Kim Jong-un’s formal welcome into the global nuclear power club.
Chosun Ilbo reports that Kim Jong-un, last week, ordered propaganda to “educate and inform” the populace that North Korea has become a “legitimate nuclear-armed state” thanks to its “successful two-track pursuit of nuclear and economic development over the last five years.”
Nowhere in this “educational” program is it mentioned that North Korea suspended its nuclear and missile tests or that Kim will be negotiating to denuclearize.
According to North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun, the wild success of that two-track pursuit is “lashing the whole country into great emotion and joy”:
The victory of the [Workers’ Party of Korea] line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force would be unthinkable without the “do-or-die” forced march and wise leadership of the respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
The Supreme Leader set forth the militant slogan “Let us further accelerate the advance of our revolution by concentrating all our efforts on socialist economic construction!” at the plenary meeting.
Our goal is vast, but we will certainly carry out the goal for producing coal set forth at the five-year strategy for national economic development with the conviction that we are sure to win when we advance along the road indicated by the Supreme Leader.
State Academy of Sciences Vice President To Jong-chol vowed to “put spurs to the grand march of science and technology to activate the overall national economy and put it on an upward spiral track as required by the new strategic line set forth at the historic April plenary meeting.”
Unfortunately, North Korea really “put the spurs” to the underground nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. Two teams of Chinese scientists this week became the latest to conclude that the test site has collapsed, bringing a good deal of nearby Mount Mantap down with it.
There has been speculation that Kim launched his diplomatic “charm offensive” and began talking about denuclearization because his nuclear test program is pretty much gone, so he wants to milk one last round of concessions from the West by selling it a dead parrot.
A variation on this theory is that China ordered Kim to halt nuclear testing because Beijing is worried about radioactive contamination drifting over the North Korean border. It is highly unlikely that the North Korean regime would honestly present either of those scenarios to its people, judging from its past behavior.
A disturbing alternative possibility was presented by retired U.S. Navy admiral and former NATO commander James Stavridis at Bloomberg View on Wednesday: Kim might agree to a denuclearization plan but keep just enough of his existing warheads to continue posing an electromagnetic pulse threat to the rest of the world. The grimmest analysis of the North Korean threat holds that they already have the missiles and warheads needed to conduct such an attack since it would not involve pinpoint accuracy or successful re-entry of the warhead into Earth’s atmosphere.