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North Korea nuclear crisis

Kim Jong-un asks Donald Trump for another meeting in ‘warm, very positive’ letter

The two leaders have been discussing North Korea’s nuclear programme since their June summit which critics argue ended in vague commitments

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 3:48am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 11:37pm

US President Donald Trump has received a “very positive” letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seeking a follow-up meeting after their historic summit in Singapore, the White House said.

“It was a very warm, very positive letter,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, adding that the message showed Pyongyang’s “continued commitment to focus on denuclearisation” on the Korean Peninsula.

“The primary purpose of the letter was to schedule another meeting with the president, which we are open to and are already in the process of coordinating,” she said on Monday at the first White House press briefing in nearly three weeks.

Sanders added that the letter was “further evidence of progress” in Washington’s relationship with Pyongyang.

Trump and Kim held a historic summit in Singapore in June that raised prospects of a breakthrough on curtailing North Korea’s nuclear programme.

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South Korea’s dovish President Moon Jae-in, who brokered the June meeting, vowed to continue playing the role of a mediator to facilitate dialogue between Trump and Kim.

“The complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is an issue that should fundamentally be resolved between the US and North Korea through negotiation,” Moon told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. “In order for us to move towards the next level of dismantling North Korea’s existing nuclear weapons, the leaders of North Korea and the United States once again must have big ideas and take bold decisions.”

Moon will fly to Pyongyang next week for his third meeting with Kim this year.

Despite follow-on negotiations on denuclearising the peninsula hitting a snag leading to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelling a trip to the North late last month, the new letter showed signs that the discussions are alive after weeks of apparent deadlock.

“We think it’s important and we’re glad that we’re making progress,” Sanders said, adding that Trump deserves “credit” for bringing the two parties to the table. “Ultimately, it’s always going to be best when you can have the two leaders sit down.”

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The White House has pointed to a series of accomplishments in recent months, including a release of US hostages, the repatriation of war remains believed to be of US service members and a pause in North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, to suggest progress between the foes.

Stephen Biegun, the new US special envoy for North Korea, stressed the importance of maintaining the momentum of dialogue with Pyongyang and said the back-to-back summits created “a tremendous opportunity”.

On Sunday, North Korea refrained from displaying its intercontinental missiles – long a bone of contention in its nuclear tensions with Washington – in a massive parade through Pyongyang celebrating the country’s 70th birthday.

The parade “for once was not about their nuclear arsenal,” Sanders said.

Trump thanked Kim for the gesture, saying on Twitter: “This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea.”

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When asked whether the next Trump-Kim meeting would be in Washington, Sanders said: “we’ll let you know when we have further details”.

The letter’s arrival was confirmed as Trump’s top security adviser John Bolton said the White House was looking to North Korea for next steps.

“President Trump can’t make the North Koreans walk through the door he’s holding open. They are the ones that have to take the steps to denuclearise. And that’s what we are waiting for.”

Additional reporting by Reuters