North Korean leader Kim Jong Un returned home on Tuesday after traveling 4,000km in his green train from Vietnam, where his high-stakes nuclear summit with President Donald Trump ended without an agreement.
His arrival came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful the United States would send a delegation to North Korea in the coming weeks to continue denuclearisation negotiations.
The Kim-Trump summit broke down mainly because of disputes over the extent of sanctions relief the North could win in return for its nuclear disarmament steps. Both Washington and Pyongyang blame each other for the breakdown, but neither side says they would pull out of diplomacy.
The crowd welcoming Kim at Pyongyang’s railway station gave shouts of joy and loud hurrahs upon his return, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Kim received a salute from the head of the army’s honour guard and was presented with flowers from children. Senior officials also greeted Kim with “their ardent congratulations”, KCNA reported.
KCNA briefly mentioned Kim’s summit with Trump but didn’t say the meeting failed to produce any agreement and ended early.
The North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper previously reported that Kim and Trump had agreed to continue talks to resolve issues discussed in their Hanoi summit, but it also didn’t mention the lack of agreement in the summit.
Some observers say the North’s propaganda services won’t report about the summit’s collapse to prevent Kim from suffering any damage in his leadership at home. They say Kim is desperate to win sanctions relief to try to resolve his country’s moribund economy and improve public livelihoods.
The Hanoi summit followed their meeting in Singapore last June that ended with Kim’s vaguely worded promise to work towards “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.
Pompeo expressed optimism that talks will continue.
“I am hopeful, although I have no commitment yet, that we will be back at it, that I’ll have a team in Pyongyang in the next couple weeks,” he said on Monday.
“I’m continuing to work to find those places where there’s a shared interest.”