Monday 19 August 2019

North Korea says Kim received ‘excellent’ letter from Trump

Kim Jong Un said he would ‘seriously contemplate the interesting content’.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reads a letter from US President Donald Trump (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reads a letter from US President Donald Trump (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

By Tong-Hyung Kim, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who described its contents as “excellent”.

The Korean Central News Agency reported Mr Kim “said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content”.

It added: “Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed Mr Trump had sent a letter and “correspondence between the two leaders has been ongoing.”

Formal talks between the US and North Korea broke down after a failed summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump in February in Vietnam.

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President Donald Trump, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi (Evan Vucci/AP)

But earlier in June, Mr Trump told US reporters he had received a “beautiful” letter from Mr Kim, without revealing what was written.

In an interview with Time magazine last week, Mr Trump said he also received a “birthday letter” from Mr Kim that was delivered by hand a day before.

The official stances remain the same. The US is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before international sanctions are lifted.

North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which moves towards denuclearisation are matched by concessions from the US, notably a relaxation of the sanctions.

South Korea’s presidential office said it sees the exchange of letters between Mr Kim and Mr Trump as a positive development for keeping the momentum for dialogue alive.

News of Mr Trump’s letter came days after Mr Kim’s summit with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping, which experts say underscored China’s importance in the diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North.

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With Chinese President Xi Jinping (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korean state media said Mr Kim and Mr Xi discussed the political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula and reached unspecified consensus on important issues.

Mr Xi is expected to meet with Mr Trump next week in Japan during the G20 summit. Analysts say he could pass him a message from Mr Kim about the nuclear negotiations.

Mr Kim said during his New Year speech he would seek a “new way” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure against North Korea.

After the collapse of his meeting with Mr Trump in Hanoi, Mr Kim said Washington has until the end of the year to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations.

Following a provocative run in weapons tests, Mr Kim initiated negotiations with Seoul and Washington in 2018, which led to three summits with South Korea’s president and his first with Mr Trump in Singapore on June 12 2018. Mr Kim and Mr Trump issued a vague statement at that summit saying they would work towards a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing how.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim also exchanged letters in 2018 after their first summit. Ms Sanders said at the time that the letters addressed their commitment to work towards North Korea’s “complete denuclearisation”.

In September 2018, Mr Trump told a cheering crowd at a campaign rally in West Virginia that Mr Kim “wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love”.

Analysts say the gesture of sending letters is part of North Korean efforts to present Mr Kim as a legitimate international statesman who is reasonable and capable of negotiating solutions and making deals.

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