Amid NK’s continued silence, US says “no direct response” yet about summit

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Mar 13, 2018 - 18:40
  • Updated : Mar 13, 2018 - 18:51

The United States’ top diplomat said that North Korea has not contacted Washington directly since its acceptance of a bilateral summit last week, as Pyongyang keeps mum over what will become of a diplomatic breakthrough for the reclusive regime.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday the US had not heard anything directly from North Korea since President Donald Trump accepted Thursday the invitation from the North’s leader Kim Jong-un’s for a meeting to be held by May.

“It‘s very early stages,” Tillerson told reporters in Abuja, Nigeria on a swing through Africa, when asked about plans for the meeting, according to the Associated Press. “We‘ve not heard anything directly back from North Korea, although we expect to hear something directly from them.” 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Yonhap

Tillerson’s remark came amid continued silence on the proposed summit in North Korea, which seems cautious on the impact of the unprecedented overture on the tightly controlled residents, Seoul’s officials and analysts said.

The North’s state-run newspaper and broadcaster have so far offered no coverage of the proposed meeting between Kim and Trump, prompting speculations over the reasons and when the news will be broken to the public there. 

Officials and experts here said the North’s silence is “not unusual,” given the tight control the regime exercises over news that might affect its people, who rarely have access to news about the outside world.

“I think the North Korean government will publicize the news after a certain period, when it thinks the residents will be ready to accept the shock,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

It is not unusual for the North Korean state media to take their time in releasing news as they synchronize their message.

When President Moon Jae-in expressed his willingness to meet with Kim during a speech in Berlin last July, it took more than a week for North Korea to issue an official response. The North then dismissed the idea as “far-fetched.”

Kim Dong-yup, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute, suspects that North Korea may be holding off on the coverage partly out of fear that a failure in the talks could compromise the dictator’s authority.

“North Korea believes that laying low is the way to avoid confronting consequences of failure,” Kim said. “In order to prevent possible chaos from a surprise announcement, it wants to discipline its residents with ideological education.”

Without mentioning summits with the US and South Korea, the North’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun Tuesday hit back against the international campaign of economic sanctions and denouncing of human rights abuses.

The editorial was published days after a news article about the US-North Korea direct talks was removed from the website of Choson Sinbo, a weekly newspaper published by a pro-North Korea group in Japan.

The original article published Sunday said the US and North Korea are ready for a peace dialogue that will end the US’ invasion attempt “once and for all.” The article, however, was deleted a day later for reasons unknown.

“We believe North Korea is taking a cautious approach as it needs time to organize its stance,” Baik Tae-hyun of South Korea’s Unification Ministry said at a regular press conference Monday. “There has been no official response from the North regarding the US-North Korea summit.”