Author: Adam Taylor
Posted on: THE WASHINGTON POST | March 15th, 2018
Roughly a week has passed since President Trump announced he had accepted a proposal to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss denuclearization. The proposal had been relayed by visiting officials from South Korea, who had recently returned from Pyongyang, where they said Kim himself had made the offer.
The idea of a Trump-Kim summit quickly became headline news around the world. Everywhere, that is, except one place you might expect: North Korea.
North Korean state media has not mentioned the proposed talks since last Thursday. The most recent article that focuses on the United States in the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official party newspaper, is a commentary that brands America as the “world’s worst human rights abuser.”
“The U.S. is the matchless tundra of human rights in the world where democracy is crudely violated,” read a translated summary published by state-run Korean Central News Agency.
North Korean state media is known for its extremely critical stance on the United States and other foreign nations — alleged U.S. hypocrisy on human rights is a recurrent theme of its coverage — so such commentary is not unusual. State media is also known for a considerable lag in its reporting on foreign events: It took more than a week after the 2016 U.S. election for a state publication to comment about it.
Some analysts have downplayed the relevance of any silence, arguing North Korea is simply taking its time to craft a public message about talks for both the outside world and its own citizens. “North Korea seems to need more time and to take a cautious approach in setting its stance,” Baik Tae-Hyun, spokesman at South Korea’s unification ministry, told reporters on Monday.
However, the lack of coverage does suggest ordinary North Koreans, most of whom have limited access to the outside world, may still be in the dark about the proposed Trump-Kim talks. Japanese journalist Jiro Ishimaura told Radio Free Asia, a news organization funded by the U.S. government, on Monday he had contacted three North Koreans inside the country and none had heard about the possibility of a summit.
There has been some public commentary about the proposal from other Pyongyang-related sources. 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 Saturday that mentioned the proposed talks, writing the intention was to seek to “put a permanent end to the war racket of invading the North done by the U.S. habitually.”
The Chosun Sinbo caters to Koreans sympathetic to Pyongyang who live in Japan, though it is not considered official media. NK News reported that the newspaper’s website deleted the article about the proposed talks, then republished it, then deleted it again with no explanation.
Shortly after Trump’s announcement, Pak Song Il, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, told The Washington Post Kim had made a “courageous” decision and that it had been the “consistent principal position” of North Korea that issues should be settled by negotiations.
Ri Hong Yo, North Korea’s foreign minister, is scheduled to begin a rare trip to Sweden on Thursday, according to the Swedish Foreign Ministry. In Sweden, Ri will meet with Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to “focus on Sweden’s consular responsibilities as a protecting power for the United States, Canada and Australia,” as well as to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the Foreign Ministry said.
Sweden has long-standing diplomatic ties to Pyongyang and also assumes consular responsibility for U.S. citizens in North Korea. There has been speculation it might serve as a third-party host for Trump-Kim talks.