North Korea says nuclear dismantling a ‘step-by-step’ process with U.S. rewards along the way

The battle over the summit narrative begins.


North Korea's state-run media is framing the agreements reached at the Singapore summit as a "step-by-step" process intended to bring U.S. rewards in exchange for gradual moves by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program. 

The account Wednesday in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper could signal the first rift with President Donald Trump over the perceived path forward with the North's leader, Kim Jong Un. The extensive and - by North Korean standards - fast coverage by the North also suggested an attempt to set the post-summit narrative of the vaguely worded declaration signed by Kim and Trump. 

After Tuesday's talks, Trump said no sanctions would be lifted until the roll-back of the North's nuclear capabilities reached "a certain point." Trump gave no further details, but previous statements demanded that North Korean effectively eliminate its nuclear program before any U.S. concessions can be considered. 

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said sanctions would remain in place until "CVID" — referring to complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. "The V matters," he told reporters in Singapore. 

The Rodong Sinmun report gave no further interpretation of what it called a "step-by-step" process on the nuclear issue or what reciprocal actions the North expected from Washington along the way. 

But one stunning step already taken by Trump - the suspension of U.S.-South Korea military drills — was characterized by state-run media as a major victory in hand for Kim. 

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said that Kim told Trump "that it is urgent to make bold decision on halting irritating and hostile military actions against each other." 

"Expressing his understanding of it," the news agency reported, "Trump expressed his intention to halt the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises." The KCNA report called the military drills a "provocation" — the same word used by Trump in Singapore to describe the decision. 

The report added that more meetings could come on their respective home turf. KCNA said Kim and Trump accepted mutual invitations for visits to North Korea and the United States. Kim asked Trump to travel to Pyongyang "at a convenient time," the news agency said. 

To no surprise, the North's state-directed coverage fawned over what it described as Kim's statesmanship and diplomatic aplomb, meeting Trump as an equal on the world stage. 

The KCNA report noted Kim's "proactive peace-loving measures" and the "will of the top leaders of the two countries to put an end to the extreme hostile relations" that date back to the Korean War nearly 70 years ago. 

"There was a comprehensive and in-depth discussion over the issues of establishing new DPRK-U.S. relations and building a permanent and durable peace mechanism at the talks," the KCNA report added, using the initials for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 

There was even a touch of warmth over the side-by-side stroll by Trump and Kim on the grounds of the hotel used for the summit venue. 

"After the luncheon, the top leaders had a walk, deepening friendly feelings," the KCNA reported, calling the summit an "epoch-making meeting." 

Less than an hour later, Trump tweeted a greeting to the autocrat he once mocked as "little rocket man": "Thank you to Chairman Kim, our day together was historic!" 

Rodong Shinmun devoted its entire front page to the summit. 

"Meeting of the century that pioneers new history in relations with United States," said a banner headline. 

The newspaper ran photos showing the handshake between Kim and Trump and the two leaders standing in front of a row of U.S. and North Korea flags. It also had two inside pages chronicling the events, including the full declaration signed after the summit. 

The newspaper's coverage was largely framed around the premise that it was Trump who was most eager for the summit. 

"Kim said he was pleased to meet with President Trump and his team from the United States and praised President Trump's will and aspiration to overcome the hostile past between the two countries, and to find realistic solutions to problems through communication and cooperation," part of the story said.


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