UNITED NATIONS (CN) – Within the same complex where President Donald Trump threatened to annihilate North Korea in September, leaders at the United Nations offered qualified praise Tuesday for a huddle that may have seemed unimaginable months ago.
“The secretary general welcomes the holding of the summit between the leaders of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States as an important milestone in the advancement of sustainable peace and a complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” said Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
In many ways the statement today echoes one issued on the eve of the historic meeting, where Guterres described the United Nations as ready to offer assistance that neither North Korea nor the United States has sought.
“We do expect to be in contact with U.S. authorities in the coming days,” Dujarric added.
Because of the secretary-general’s focus on verifiable denuclearization, Dujarric emphasized that it is premature just yet to celebrate.
“What the secretary general would ultimately like to see has not changed, which is a peaceful and complete, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the spokesman said.
Long on aspirations and short on details, the brief joint statement co-signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and Trump contains no provisions for the verification that Guterres repeatedly emphasized.
“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the 4-point statement begins.
Only months ago, and steps away from the Secretariat building inside the U.N. General Assembly, Trump stood up before a marble podium and threatened his aspiring partner in peace with eradication.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump announced to audible gasps throughout the room.
No longer mocking Kim as “Rocket Man,” Trump posed warmly for friendly photographs today with the man who just last year described him as a “dotard” and “frightened dog.” Videos showed Kim’s hand on Trump’s back as the two men walked at the summit in Singapore like old friends.
Immediately after the huddle this morning, Trump took to praising the North Korean dictator as a beloved statesman.
“His country does love him,” Trump said of him in an interview with George Stephanopoulos this morning. “His people, you can see the fervor. They have great fervor.”
In 2014, the U.N. human rights inquiry left no doubt that any such sentiment would be compulsory under Kim’s totalitarian regime.
“Political scientists of the twentieth century characterized this type of political organization as a totalitarian state: a state that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within,” a blistering summary of the 36-page report states.
The report goes on to describe in excruciating detail the campaign of deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and compulsory abortions enforced upon the 80,000 to 120,000 people estimated at the time to have been driven into political prison camps.
Declining to comment on Trump’s praise for the regime, Dujarric said: “I think the United Nations stance on the situation of human rights in the DPRK has been clear and is unchanged.”
The secretary general’s spokesman also demurred from commenting on the absence of human rights language in the joint statement.
“I’ll leave the analysis to the analysts,” he said.
With international bodies jockeying to join the diplomatic mission, Dujarric noted that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency has offered help that the White House so far has not accepted.
“We continue to enhance our readiness to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear program if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned,” the agency’s leader Yukiya Amano said last week.