North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has received a personal letter of “excellent content” from US President Donald Trump, the country’s state media has said, amid a nuclear deadlock between Pyongyang and Washington.
Talks have been stalled since the collapse of a second summit between Kim and Trump in Hanoi in February after the pair failed to agree on what North Korea would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
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.
The two sides have blamed each other for the breakdown, but both leaders have expressed a willingness to meet again, with Trump saying earlier this month that he had received a “beautiful letter” from Kim.
On Sunday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Trump had written to Kim, who praised the letter as “excellent” and said he would “seriously contemplate the interesting content”.
He also praised Trump’s “extraordinary courage”.
‘Momentum of dialogue’
The report gave no further details about the content of the letter or when it was sent and received.
The front page of North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried a photo of Kim reading Trump’s letter in his office.
The White House declined to confirm whether Trump had sent a letter to Kim.
But South Korea‘s presidential Blue House said it was aware of the correspondence through its communication with Washington.
“The government views it as positive in that the momentum of dialogue between the North and the US is being maintained through top-level letter exchanges,” the Blue House said.
North Korean state media said Kim and Xi discussed the political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula and reached unspecified consensus on important issues.
‘China holds the key’
Kim told Xi that his visit was an opportunity to demonstrate “the immutability and invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship before the world”, KCNA said, using the abbreviation of North Korea’s official name.
Analysts say North Korea’s apparently friendly overtures to Trump signalled that Pyongyang was ready to break the deadlock with Washington after Kim’s summit with Xi.
“China holds the key to what North Korea wants the most – security guarantee and economic development,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.
“After getting China’s promise that it will actively help on these two issues, Kim is reaching out to the US,” Koh told AFP.
Xi is expected to meet Trump later this month in Japan during the G20 summit and analysts say the Chinese president intends to use his trip to North Korea as a way of signalling to Trump his influence with Kim.
Pyongyang had pulled out all the stops to welcome Xi who is the first Chinese president to visit in 14 years – a period during which North Korea advanced its nuclear programme and developed missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland.