The North Korean state media triumphantly published a congratulatory message from the queen on Monday prompting knowledgeable insiders to speculate that Pyongyang must have made up the note from Buckingham Palace in a propaganda move to shore up the rogue state’s international standing.
A royal spokesman, however, has confirmed to The Daily Beast that Queen Elizabeth II did indeed send a cheery message to Kim Jong Un on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of its founding as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea “regularly greets our queen on her birthday,” Korea expert Aidan Foster-Carter, senior research fellow at Leeds University in England, told the Daily Beast, “but I find no trace of any message from us/her to them—until now. So this is intriguing.”
The message, dated September 7, two days before North Korea’s founding day parade, was revealed Monday by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency, which published it in entirety among dozens of other messages from leaders of countries such as Algeria, the Seychelles and Azerbaijan. The controversial King of Thailand was another well-wisher but the heads of other major Western powers were notable by their absence.
The queen avoided any personal tribute to the Korean dictator despite hailing the anniversary of the establishment of the Kim dynasty.
“As the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea celebrate their National Day, I send my good wishes for the future,” she said.
A royal spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the message to The Daily Beast, dispelling suspicions that it might have been an elaborate hoax. The palace would only say that the message had been sent to the head of state, although there is now only one man to whom that could now refer. Pyongyang’s KCNA confirmed it was sent to Kim Jong Un as “president of state affairs.”
“It was a message sent by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCDO) on behalf of Her Majesty to the people of North Korea on their national day,” said a spokesperson for the palace. Such messages are routinely sent in the queen’s name by and on the advice of the FCDO, she would not have crafted the message herself.
However, efforts to downplay the significance of the message will not appease critics who fear the regime is making use of the queen’s message to confer legitimacy on its autocratic system. North Korea’s nuclear aspirations were demonstrated again on Sunday with boasts of successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile.
DPRK leaders have been trying to engage with the queen for years, sending nice notes to the family and her citizens. In 2014, for instance, Kim Yong Nam, then North Korea’s titular head of state, sent birthday greetings to the queen in which he wished her and her subjects “health and happiness… well being and prosperity.”