North Korean leader Kim sends letter to Trump amid talks of ‘good progress’

The letter appeared to be in response to a comment from Trump last Thursday when he canceled the summit. (Supplied)

A top aide to Kim Jong Un will make a rare visit to Washington Friday to hand a letter from the North Korean leader to President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after reporting “good progress” in talks between the two sides to revive an on-again, off-again nuclear summit.

“I am confident we are moving in the right direction,” Pompeo told reporters at a news conference in New York after meeting Thursday with former North Korean military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol. “Our two countries face a pivotal moment in our relationship, and it would be nothing short of tragic to let this opportunity go to waste.”

The letter appeared to be in response to a comment from Trump last Thursday when he canceled the summit, accusing Pyongyang of hostility, but urged the North Korean leader to “call me or write” if he had a change of heart.

Kim’s letter seemed to be a sign that the summit might now go ahead. There has been a flurry of diplomatic efforts in the past few days to get it back on track.

Trump hopes to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 and pressure him to give up his nuclear weapons, although he conceded on Thursday that might require more rounds of direct negotiations.

“I’d like to see it done in one meeting,” Trump told Reuters. “But often times that’s not the way deals work. There’s a very good chance that it won’t be done in one meeting or two meetings or three meetings. But it’ll get done at some point.”

He added there may even need to be a second or third summit meeting to reach a deal on North Korean denuclearization but still hedged, saying “maybe we’ll have none.”

Kim Yong Chol, the North Korean leader's top aide, is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years, and his trip to the White House will be a highly symbolic sign of easing tensions after fears of war escalated amid North Korean nuclear and missile tests last year.

Despite the upbeat messaging in the United States, Kim Jong Un, in a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister on Thursday, complained about the U.S. trying to spread its influence in the region, a comment that may complicate the summit plans. “As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” Kim told Sergey Lavrov.

North Korea’s flurry of diplomatic activity following an increase in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and for the international legitimacy a summit with Trump would provide. But there are lingering doubts on whether he will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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