North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, dedicated its front page and its first spread Wednesday to photos and analysis of Tuesday’s meeting between dictator Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
The photos also prominently featured American National Security Adviser John Bolton, whom various North Korean media outlets described just a few weeks ago as an “absurd” “racist” and “human scum”:
How did state media cover the #USDPRK summit? While new footage has not been released yet, the Rodong Sinmun welcomes Trump’s promise to end military exercises and Kim accepts his invitation to Washington https://t.co/MrnHxhGXEd pic.twitter.com/HywNh8XTNu
— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) June 13, 2018
North Korea’s government media, the only legal news outlets in the country, have traditionally waited days and sometimes months to publish news from abroad. Rodong Sinmun took months to mention that Kim Jong-un had agreed to meet Trump personally and published photos of Kim visiting Beijing and Dalian, China, days after Kim had returned from that trip. The relatively fast and extensive coverage in the state newspaper reflects a major change in protocol in Pyongyang.
The photos of President Donald Trump are also likely the first that many North Koreans will have seen of the American president, as state media generally avoid broadcasting any content from abroad so as to keep North Koreans from seeing how prosperous the outside world can be:
🇵 Commuters gather round the latest copy of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meeting with US president Donald Trump during their summit in Singapore, at a news stand on a subway platform of the Pyongyang metro
— AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) June 13, 2018
Rodong Sinmun featured many more photos of Kim’s meeting with Trump than text describing the events (full newspaper in Korean here). The photos showed the initial handshake when the two leaders met on Tuesday in Singapore as well as their extensive meeting featuring top advisers and a luncheon following the talks.
Rodong Sinmun‘s version of what happened at the meeting mostly aligned with coverage in the West, save for one detail: the North Korean newspaper claims President Trump agreed to remove sanctions on the rogue communist regime.
Rodong Sinmun reported:
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 lift sanctions against it along with advance in improving the mutual relationship through dialogue and negotiation.
While Trump did announce the end of annual “war games” with South Korea on the peninsula – the largest of which, Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, typically occur in March and April – both Trump and other top U.S. officials have insisted that sanctions would remain in place until North Korea can prove it has definitively ended and destroyed its illegal nuclear weapons program. The Rodong Sinmun report is the only such mention of lifting sanctions in any coverage of the Kim-Trump summit.
Just as it did following the first meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim, where they signed the Panmunjom Declaration seeking to improve ties, Rodong Sinmun published the text of an agreed-upon declaration signed by both Kim and Trump. That declaration stated that North Korea would repatriate the remains of soldiers missing in action and killed as prisoners of war during the Korean War and bound both sides to work towards stable peacetime relations and “complete” denuclearization.
Rodong Sinmun also dedicated much of its coverage of the summit to Kim Jong-un’s alleged statements to Trump, featuring the overwrought language typical of government propaganda.
“Noting that it was not easy to get to where they were, Kim Jong Un made the meaningful words there was a past that gripped their ankles and prejudice and wrong practice covered their eyes and ears, but they overcame all that to come to this place and stand at a new starting point,” Rodong Sinmun reported.
The newspaper noted that Kim and Trump took a stroll after their lunch with aides, “deepening friendly feelings.”
“Singapore, the country of the epoch-making meeting much awaited by the whole world, was awash with thousands of domestic and foreign journalists and a large crowd of masses to see this day’s moment which will remain long in history,” the newspaper added.
Tuesday morning’s edition of Rodong Sinmun featured extensive coverage of Kim Jong-un’s tour of Singapore, including not just photos of the dictator, but Singapore’s impressive skyline and attractive nighttime vistas, an unprecedented look into the outside world for the average North Korean. Kim, the newspaper reported, “said Singapore is clean and beautiful and every building is stylish as he heard of in the past, adding he is going to learn a lot from the good knowledge and experience of Singapore in various fields in the future.”