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Trump releases highly flattering missive from Kim Jong-un

July 14,2018
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Two images of the letter - one in Korean and the other an English translation - U.S. President Donald Trump posted on his Twitter account. [YONHAP]
U.S. President Donald Trump said “great progress” was being made in denuclearization talks with Pyongyang Thursday, citing a “very nice note” he received from Kim Jong-un last week in which the North Korean leader praised the “energetic and extraordinary efforts” Trump was making to improve bilateral ties and implement the agreements made in their summit last month.

Trump posted Kim’s letter on his Twitter account along with an English translation, under the tweet: “A very nice note from Chairman Kim of North Korea. Great progress being made!” The letter made no mention of denuclearization.

Trump did not specify how he received the letter, but the letter’s date, July 6, hinted it was the one U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received from Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, last week during his visit to Pyongyang for high-level meetings with North Korean officials. Pompeo landed in the North Korean capital on July 6 and left the following day.

Soon after Pompeo left Pyongyang, North Korean media said Kim Jong-un wrote a personal letter to Trump, which was relayed by Kim Yong-chol to Pompeo, without explaining its content.

In the letter revealed by Trump, Kim Jong-un referred to his summit with the American president and the joint statement they signed together, calling them the “start of a meaningful journey,” adding he did “deeply appreciate” the efforts made by Trump to improve bilateral ties and implement their agreements.

Referring to Trump as “Your Excellency” on five occasions, Kim said he firmly believes that the “strong will, sincere efforts and unique approach” of himself and Trump “aimed at opening up a new future between the DPRK and the U.S. will surely come to fruition,” using the initials of his country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Wishing that the invariable trust and confidence in Your Excellency Mr. President will be further strengthened in the future progress of taking practical actions,” he continued, “I extend my conviction that the epochal progress in promoting the DPRK-U.S. relations will bring our next meeting forward.”

In Cabinet meetings and on the stump, Trump has bragged that North Korea’s denuclearization was already starting and that bilateral discussions on the issue were making great progress. But his joint statement with Kim failed to specify how North Korea’s denuclearization would be conducted, let alone offer a timeline for the process.

Trump has said further details will be fleshed out in follow-up meetings, but so far, no tangible results have been made.

On Thursday at the truce village of Panmunjom, the North didn’t show up for a meeting with the United States that was meant to discuss the repatriation of the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, one of four major agreements in the joint statement Kim signed with Trump at their summit on June 12 in Singapore.

Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement that the North has offered to meet the American delegation this Sunday.

“Midday today they contacted us and offered to meet on Sunday,” Nauert said Thursday in Washington. “We will be ready.”

It was unclear whether the United States had been deliberately stood up because Pompeo said last week, while departing Pyongyang, that the date of the meeting could be moved by a day or two.

According to a South Korean official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, officials from the U.S. State Department and United Nations Command waited four hours from 10 a.m. in Panmunjom Thursday, hoping the North would show up. But they didn’t, so the crew withdrew. Later that day, the United Nations Command called the North through a Panmunjom hotline. The North picked up and suggested they hold a general-level military meeting on Sunday. The issue of repatriating the remains can be discussed then, said the North, according to the South Korean government source.

The source said the United Nations Command responded “positively” to the offer, but did not know how the Pentagon reacted. Nauert did not explain whether an American general would participate in the upcoming meeting with the North. If the U.S. government accepts the proposal, it would be the first meeting between an American and North Korean military general in nine years.

Pompeo, who was berated by North Korean media last week for making “gangster-like” demands about denuclearization during his high-level talks with Pyongyang officials, reiterated Thursday in a news conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, that he had very “productive” conversations.

“There remains a great deal of work to do,” he said, “but I think, most importantly, my counterpart, Kim Yong-chol, made a commitment with what President Trump was able to achieve with Chairman Kim, which was: They intend to denuclearize. They’re going to accomplish it.”

Trump, who was at the same news conference as Pompeo, stressed he had an “amazing meeting” with Chairman Kim last month.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, PARK YU-MI [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]