North Korea’s state media on Monday hailed leader Kim Jong Un’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the Demilitarised Zone between the two Koreas as “an amazing event”, as Japan’s prime minister expressed hopes the meeting would lead to progress.
Kim and Trump agreed to “resume and push forward productive dialogues for making a new breakthrough in the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, the official Korean Central News Agency said.
After a Twitter invitation by the US president on Saturday, the two men met a day later in the strip of land that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War when the two countries and their allies fought each other to a standstill.
Kim and Trump shook hands over the concrete slabs dividing North and South before Trump walked a few paces into Pyongyang’s territory – the first US president ever to set foot on North Korean soil.
“The top leaders of the DPRK and the US exchanging historic handshakes at Panmunjom” was an “amazing event”, KCNA said, describing the truce village as a “place that had been known as the symbol of division” and referring to past “inglorious relations” between the countries. The DPRK is the official name for North Korea.
Trump announced afterward that the two nations had agreed to resume discussions in the coming weeks.
“Stepping across that line was a great honour,” Trump said at a joint news conference with Kim. “It’s a great day for the world,” he added.
“I want to thank Chairman Kim for something else; when I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up the press was going to make me look very bad so you made us both look good and I appreciate it,” Trump added.
Also included in the North’s state media report was a description of Kim exchanging “warm greetings” with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in.
Trump, first US president to set foot in North Korea
Front page splash
The meeting dominated the pages of the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday.
On the front page there was a photo of Trump and Kim smiling and shaking hands against a backdrop of US and North Korean flags and, below, a series of pictures showing the meeting at the DMZ including Trump’s step into North Korean territory.
Shin Beom-chul, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies told AFP the KCNA report was “typical North Korean propaganda that glorified Kim as leading the tremendous changes in geopolitics. The objective was to recover Kim’s damaged status after he returned from the Hanoi summit empty-handed.”
In Tokyo, Japanese media reported Shinzo Abe saying he supported what he called the “process” between the US and North Korea.
“I hope that this summit will lead to progress,” Abe was quoted by Kyodo News and Jiji Press as telling reporters at the prime minister’s official residence.
Analysts have been divided over the value of Sunday’s events, with some dismissing them as “reality show theatrics”.
The meeting, with Trump becoming the first US president to set foot in North Korea, was an unexpected addition to Trump’s Asia trip.
The first Trump-Kim summit took place in a blaze of publicity in Singapore last year but produced only a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearisation.
A second meeting in Vietnam in February collapsed after the pair failed to reach an agreement over sanctions relief and what the North was willing to give in return.
Contact between the two sides has since been minimal – with Pyongyang issuing frequent criticisms of the US position – but the two leaders exchanged a series of letters before Trump issued his offer to meet at the DMZ.
As well as the working-level talks, Trump also floated the idea of sanctions relief – repeatedly demanded by Pyongyang – and said he invited the North Korean leader to the White House.
Such a trip would have to come “at the right time”, he added.
KCNA was less specific, saying Kim and Trump discussed “issues of mutual concern and interest which become a stumbling block”.
Trump regularly calls Kim a “friend” and KCNA cited the North Korean leader as lauding their “good personal relations”, saying they would “produce good results unpredictable by others and work as a mysterious force overcoming manifold difficulties and obstacles”.
Vipin Narang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the North was portraying Kim as “being courted by Trump”.
“Note very carefully the sequence of issues here,” he said on Twitter. “Easing tensions, ending inglorious relations, and then working on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula (again, not just North Korea).
“Kim is still not offering to unilaterally disarm.”