North Korea's view of negotiations with Trump: Kim was the tough one
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North Korea's view of negotiations with Trump: Kim was the tough one

Singapore: A day after Donald Trump gave the world his version of the historic talks with Kim Jong-un, North Korean media has provided the view of the other person in the room.

Trump spoke casually at a press conference about ending US "war games" with South Korea, but the North Korean state news agency KCNA highlighted it as a win for Kim. The news agency said the halt to joint military exercises would continue while the US and North Korea undertook “goodwill dialogue”.

North Korea also highlighted Trump's offer of security guarantees and a lifting of economic sanctions as negotiations advance and the mutual relationship improves.

Kim underlined Trump’s “bold decision on halting irritating and hostile military actions”, which, according to KCNA, came after Kim told Trump the two sides should stop antagonising one another.

An end to the “war games” was not in the letter signed by the two men after negotiations ended on Tuesday. The militaries of South Korea and the US also revealed they had not been informed of the move before Trump made his televised comments.

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KCNA reported that Kim had won support from Trump for “the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace”.

“Kim Jong-un clarified the stand that if the US side takes genuine measures for building trust in order to improve the DPRK-US relationship, the DPRK, too, can continue to take additional goodwill measures of the next stage commensurate with them,” said the KCNA report.

This means the US must offer concessions before it will see further steps from North Korea. The need for "simultaneous" action may be the reason nothing more concrete was signed at the summit, and why there was as yet no agreement for a peace treaty to end the Korean War, despite high expectations.

The version presented to the North Korean public in some ways presents a mirror image of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s depiction of the US side as tough negotiators who were unwilling to budge on the demand for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation by North
Korea.

Through the lens of the North Korean media reports, it was Kim who held the North Korean line and was the tough negotiator.

The North Korean media nonetheless trumpeted the improved rapport between the two sides and friendly atmospherics of the meeting.

People look at the display of local newspaper reporting the Trump-Kim meeting at a subway station in Pyongyang.

People look at the display of local newspaper reporting the Trump-Kim meeting at a subway station in Pyongyang.

Photo: Kyodo News via AP

Kim had gladly accepted an invitation to travel to the United States, and Trump to North Korea, it said. Trump said nothing on Tuesday about visiting the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and said Kim’s visit to the White House would happen “at the appropriate time”.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried four pages of photographs of Kim and Trump at the historic meeting, plus the full text of the letter the two leaders signed.

Some North Korea watchers suggested this may have been the first time a photograph of Trump had been shown in the heavily restricted media in North Korea.

Not one, but 33 colour photographs, including an image of Kim smiling as he shook hands with the hawkish US national security advisor John Bolton, were published by the propaganda organ.

Donald Trump dropped a bombshell about ending 'war games' with South Korea at the press conference.

Donald Trump dropped a bombshell about ending 'war games' with South Korea at the press conference.

Photo: AP

Weeks earlier, Bolton, a long-time supporter of regime change in North Korea, was vilified by North Korean propaganda in a blow-up between the US and North Korean negotiators that briefly led to the cancellation of the summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is watching the handshake in what appears to be amusement.

Pompeo is travelling to South Korea on Wednesday to personally brief South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the summit, after Trump held a 20-minute phone briefing with Moon on Tuesday.

Pompeo will then travel to Beijing on Thursday to hold talks with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.

Kim Jong-un during the meeting with Donald Trump: North Korean media says he was the tough negotiator.

Kim Jong-un during the meeting with Donald Trump: North Korean media says he was the tough negotiator.

Photo: AP

The South Korean president’s office said there were no immediate plans for three-way talks between the Koreas and the US to sign a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War.

In April, Moon and Kim had pledged to sign such a treaty this year.

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China also welcomed the end of war games, with foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying the halt to military exercises was an endorsement of China’s roadmap for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“The facts have proven that the China-proposed 'suspension for suspension' initiative has been materialised ... The DPRK-US summit is what China has been looking forward to and striving for all along,” Geng said.

Kirsty Needham

Kirsty Needham is China Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

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