PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — With all the international attention focused on Singapore and the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pyongyang must have been buzzing with excitement on the eve of the leaders’ arrival, right?
Well, it might have been, if anyone there had known what was going on.
Instead, it was like the center of a storm.
With few sources of information other than the state-run media, gossip and word of mouth, North Koreans had been left largely in the dark about the momentous — and potentially life-changing — events about to take place outside of their isolated nation.
The official media had reported that the two leaders plan to meet, but offered few specifics, including where and when. On Sunday, as the international media swarmed Singapore and Kim arrived on a special Air China flight, just hours before Trump, there was still no word.
It was only Monday morning North Korea time that the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, reported Kim was in Singapore, had met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and would meet Trump on Tuesday.
Before that, the top news in North Korea had been tremendously mundane, all things considered — a visit by Kim to a seafood restaurant in Pyongyang.
Word does get around, however, and the prospect of a meeting between Kim and Trump had already been on the public’s radar. The meeting could have a major and direct impact on their daily lives, so it is only natural that people would want to know. But without a robust and independent media, accurate news is less likely and exaggeration and gossip probably abound.
By North Korean standards, Monday’s announcement actually came a bit earlier than usual.
In other cases it has often waited until events were over to put out its first reports. News that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea was front page stuff with a big photo of him shaking Kim’s hand in the ruling party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, the following day.
Though it could mean many things, the relative speed of the reports about Singapore could be seen as a sign of confidence by the North that the summit will go well. Or it could just be a nod to the intense attention the story is getting nearly everywhere else.
The KCNA report noted the summit is being held “under the great attention and expectation of the whole world.”
It also offered a list of Pyongyang’s talking points, saying Kim and Trump will exchange “wide-ranging and profound views” on establishing a new relationship, the issue of building a “permanent and durable peace mechanism” and realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Talmadge is The AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @EricTalmadge