North Korea says Trump sent Kim Jong Un an 'excellent' letter amid stalled nuclear diplomacy

The White House on Sunday confirmed that Trump had sent a letter to Kim.
Image: NKOREA-KIM-DIPLOMACY-TRUMP-LETTER
This undated and unlocated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)on June 23, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reading a personal letter from President of the United States of America Donald Trump.KCNA VIA KNS / AFP - Getty Images

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By Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — President Donald Trump sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un an "excellent" letter, the North's state-run news agency reported Sunday, quoting Kim as saying he would "seriously contemplate it."

The White House confirmed that Trump had sent a letter to Kim.

"Correspondence between the two leaders has been ongoing," Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

It comes after nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea broke down after the failed summit between Kim and Trump in February in Vietnam.

The U.S. 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 toward denuclearization are matched by concessions from the U.S., notably a relaxation of the sanctions.

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Kim "said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content," Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency reported.

"Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content," the agency said, without elaborating.

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

Trump's letter also came days after Kim's summit with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping, which experts say underscored China's emergence as a major player in the diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North.

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

Xi is expected to meet with Trump next week in Japan during the G-20 summit. Analysts say he could pass him a message from Kim about the nuclear negotiations.

Kim said during his New Year's 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 Trump in Hanoi, Kim said Washington has until the end of the year to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations.

Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill, but Trump recently told reporters he received a "beautiful" letter from Kim, without revealing what was written. In an interview with TIME magazine last week, Trump said he also received a "birthday letter" from Kim that was delivered by hand a day before.

In September 2018, Trump told a cheering crowd at a campaign rally in West Virginia that 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 Kim as a legitimate international statesman who is reasonable and capable of negotiating solutions and making deals.

Because of the weight of formality they provide, Kim might see personal letters as an important way to communicate with leaders of countries the North never had close ties with, they say.

Kristen Welker contributed.