Donald Trump reportedly praised North Korean state-run media and argued it was more favourable in its coverage than Fox News.
The US president, who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a historic summit earlier in the week, is said to have commented on how positive the female North Korean news anchor was to Mr Kim after watching North Korean TV.
According to the Washington Post, Mr Trump also joked that even Fox News, which is known for its unashamed Republican bias and pro-Trump rhetoric, was not as effusive in its praise as the state TV host.
The former property developer, who regularly launches into barbed attacks on the US media whom he refers to as “fake news”, is believed to have said she should get a job on American TV instead.
The so-called Hermit Kingdom’s media is one of the most stringently controlled in the world. Despite the fact the constitution nominally provides for freedom of speech and the press, the government bars the application of these rights in practice unless it extolls the leader, government, and country.
The Korean Central News Agency, which is the state news agency, provides the only source of information for all media outlets in North Korea. The isolated country also tightly controls all information flowing in and out of it.
According to The Post, Mr Trump marvelled at how “tough” the North Korean guards appeared – observing that they were constantly stone-faced and rebuffed efforts to shake hands.
The world leader is said to have implored his aides to demand the greatly anticipated summit be pushed forward by a day – to Monday.
The president was reported to be antsy before having to be cajoled into not trying to change the long-standing arrangement.
“We’re here now. Why can’t we just do it?” the president said, according to two people familiar with preparations for the event.
Mr Trump’s edginess and inability to wait was said to have left some advisors worried the denuclearisation summit could be in jeopardy.
The US president has been accused of lending legitimacy to the North Korean leader since the summit. His regime is accused of appalling human rights abuses, including rape, forced abortions, starvation and overwork leading to "countless deaths" in prison camps believed to hold between 80,000 and 130,000 of his citizens.
Mr Trump’ has also faced criticism over comments that appear to minimise North Korea’s poor human rights record. He dismissed concerns about the widely condemned human rights record of Mr Kim – commending him as a “tough guy”, a “smart guy” and a “great negotiator” on Fox News.
The issue of human rights was conspicuously absent from the joint statement signed by Mr Trump and Mr Kim at their five-hour summit on Tuesday. There has also been no mention of human rights in early discussions about follow-up meetings between the North Korean regime and the Trump administration.
A North Korean government video which was released on Thursday shows Mr Trump returning the salute of a North Korean general. The salutation sparked criticism from those who viewed it as bolstering Pyongyang’s propaganda.
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