Wed, Jul 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Did N Korea’s Kim put potatoes over Pompeo?

AFP, SEOUL

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un inspects a farm in Samjiyon County in an undated photograph released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) yesterday.

Photo: KCNA via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might have been too busy visiting a potato farm to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pyongyang’s state media implied yesterday.

The North’s state media normally lead their TV bulletins and front pages with Kim’s doings, but a seven-day absence from the headlines, including during Pompeo’s visit, had prompted speculation on his whereabouts among North Korea-watchers.

The mystery was resolved yesterday, when the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) put out no fewer than four reports on Kim’s trip to far-flung Samjiyon County on the border with China, most of them far more detailed than usual accounts of his “field guidance” visits.

At the Junghung potato farm, Kim instructed staff not only to plant high-yield varieties, but also to “introduce various species good to taste and ensure the quality of processed potato foods in production and thus raise the quality of potato production,” KCNA said.

He praised officials of the county, which is close to Mount Paektu, the spiritual home of the Korean people and claimed by Pyongyang’s propaganda to be the birthplace of his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il.

It was “a sacred land of the revolution,” Kim Jong-un said, adding that authorities were seeking to build it “into a model of the country and fairyland of communism.”

KCNA did not say when the trip was made, but Kim Yong-chol, Kim Jong-un’s powerful right-hand man, told a visiting Seoul official last week that the leader was away for a trip to a “local region.”

Pompeo was in Pyongyang from Friday to Saturday last week to try to flesh out a bare bones denuclearization deal made during last month’s historic summit between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.

The White House had earlier said Pompeo would meet with the leader, but the encounter did not materialize and the top US diplomat only met with Kim Yong-chol.

Pompeo insisted that the talks were making progress, but as soon as he left, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs berated him over his “unilateral and gangster-like” demands and for offering no constructive steps on the US side.

However, Trump on Monday said on Twitter that he has “confidence” that Kim Jong-un would honor the denuclearization “contract” they signed at the summit and accused China — the isolated North’s powerful neighbor and ally — of seeking to undermine the deal.

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