In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects military exercise at an undisclosed location in North Korea on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) (Associated Press)
SEOUL, South Korea — President Donald Trump sent a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking to maintain good relations and offering cooperation in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Kim’s sister said Sunday.
The latest correspondence came as Kim observed the firing of tactical guided weapons over the weekend, drawing criticism from South Korea, as nuclear talks remain deadlocked.
In a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, Kim’s sister and senior ruling party official, Kim Yo Jong, praised Trump for sending the letter at a time when “big difficulties and challenges lie ahead in the way of developing ties” between the countries.
In the letter, she said Trump explained his plan to “propel the relations between the two countries ... and expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work,” an apparent reference to the global coronavirus outbreak. She said her brother expressed his gratitude for Trump’s letter.
North Korea has repeatedly said there hasn’t been a single case of the coronavirus on its soil. Some foreign experts question that claim and say an outbreak in the North could cause a humanitarian disaster because of its poor medical infrastructure. Last month, the State Department expressed concerns about North Korea’s vulnerability to a potential coronavirus outbreak and said it was ready to support efforts by aid organizations to contain the spread of the illness in the North.
A senior Trump administration official said Sunday that Trump sent a letter to Kim that the official said was consistent with Trump’s efforts to engage global leaders during the pandemic. The official said Trump looks forward to continued communications with the North Korean leader.
Kim Yo Jong said Trump’s letter is “a good example showing the special and firm personal relations” between the North Korean and U.S. leaders. But she said it’s not a good idea to “make hasty conclusion or be optimistic about” the prospect for bilateral relations.
“In my personal opinion, I think that the bilateral relations and dialogue for them would be thinkable only when the equilibrium is kept dynamically and morally and justice ensured between the two countries,” she said. “Even at this moment we are working hard to develop and defend ourselves on our own under the cruel environment which the U.S. is keen to ‘provide.’”
Earlier, Trump sent birthday greetings to Kim Jong Un, who was believed to have turned 36 on Jan. 8. Senior North Korean official Kim Kye Gwan said at the time that the birthday message won’t lead his country to return to talks unless the U.S. accepts its demands.
Kim and Trump have met three times and exchanged letters and envoys on many occasions since 2018, when they launched talks on the fate of Kim’s advancing nuclear arsenal. The two leaders have avoided harsh language against each other, and Trump once said he and Kim “fell in love.”