Confirming North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s recent trip to Beijing, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday that Kim discussed and mentioned the upcoming landmark summits with his counterpart Xi Jinping. It also brought up denuclearization, which is expected to be a key agenda item at the talks.
“(North Korean leader) Kim said that the DPRK (North Korea) is determined to transform the inter-Korean ties into a relationship of reconciliation and cooperation and hold (a) summit between the heads of the two sides,” Xinhua said.
“The DPRK is willing to have dialogue with the United States and hold a summit of the two countries,” it added.
According to Xinhua, Kim told Xi that “the issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved,” if South Korea and the United States create an “atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace.”
But North Korea’s state-run Korea Central News Agency’s Wednesday report of the same summit did not mention any of Kim’s remarks on the North’s planned talks with South Korea and the US. Instead, it primarily focused on highlighting Kim and Xi’s vows on the development of North Korea-China ties.
Analysts say that the Moon-Kim and Trump-Kim summits, along with the term “denuclearization,” are subjects that North Korea is likely to use for domestic propaganda only after carefully assessing the results of the respective talks.
“North Korea believes it is too early for it to officially discuss the planned summits with South Korea and the US both externally and internally because it needs time to draw a plan that will help them look like they’re getting the better side of the bargain,” said Hong Min, director of the North Korean studies division of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.
“If both summits do lead to denuclearization, it is then capable of painting a big picture that Kim brought a mood of peace to the Korean Peninsula, but it first needs to see the results of the talks and keep tabs on the situation,” he added, while mentioning the North’s previous responses in a similar manner to the keywords.
Earlier this month, when a special envoy for South Korean President Moon Jae-in returned to Seoul with Kim’s personal message expressing the willingness to hold the first inter-Korean summit and talk about denuclearization with the US, the North’s state-run news agencies did not report the news.
The Chosun Sinbo, a newspaper published by the North Korea-aligned Central Committee of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, published an article on the planned inter-Korean summit on March 11, but removed the article a day later. The paper is not part of North Korea’s official media, but it serves as a mouthpiece for Pyongyang.
The South Korean government interpreted the lack of such reports in the North as the rogue nation’s “cautious approach in setting its stance” over the possible summits with South Korea and the US.
“North Korea seems to need more time and is taking a cautious approach in setting its stance (over the envisioned summits with the South and the US),” Baik Tae-hyun, a spokesman at Seoul’s Ministry of Unification, told a press briefing.
Hong warned that the keywords could be abused to strengthen the position of the current North Korean regime and the option of holding the Trump-Kim summit in Pyongyang -- the North’s capital and home ground -- would only help the reclusive nation with its “big plan.”
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org