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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Trump tweets ‘very nice note’ from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un

The president said that ‘Great progress’ was being made in negotiations on denuclearising the Korean peninsula

During an official visit to Britain, Trump posted images of the Korean-language letter from Kim and its English translation. AFP/SAUL LOEB
During an official visit to Britain, Trump posted images of the Korean-language letter from Kim and its English translation. AFP/SAUL LOEB

Trump on Thursday tweeted a letter to him from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un heralding “epochal progress” in US-North Korea relations, despite signs that path-finding diplomacy between the adversaries is running into problems.

The president described the letter as a “very nice note” and said “Great progress being made!”

The letter is dated July 6. That’s when secretary of state Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang and seemingly made little progress in fleshing out details of North Korea’s commitment for “complete denuclearisation.”

Kim made that commitment when he met Mr Trump in Singapore last month. He also agreed then to repatriate remains of US troops who died during the Korean War six decades ago.

A planned meeting Thursday between North Korean and US officials in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas to discuss the return of the remains was postponed.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said North Korea called at midday Thursday and offered to meet on Sunday instead. “We will be ready,” she told reporters aboard Mr Pompeo’s plane, as the top US diplomat flew home to Washington after attending a NATO summit.

The letter and its translation
The letter and its translation

It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the postponement. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing unnamed sources, said the North requested talks at a higher level. The talks Sunday are expected to involve officials from the Pentagon and the UN.

Mr Pompeo told reporters after his visit to North Korea last week that the meeting in the truce village Panmunjom was set for Thursday but “could move by one day or two.”

The secretary of state did not meet Kim as he had on his previous two trips to Pyongyang this year, and after his departure, the North’s foreign ministry accused the US of making “gangster-like” demands that it unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons.

Mr Pompeo gave a rosier readout. He reported that the two sides had substantive discussions on next steps toward denuclearisation.

During an official visit to Britain, Trump posted images of the Korean-language letter from Kim and its English translation. Kim expresses “invariable trust and confidence” in the president and wishes that “epochal progress” in promoting relations will “bring our next meeting forward.”

But there’s growing scepticism in Washington over the Trump administration’s engagement with North Korea. Recent reports suggest that the North has continued to expand infrastructure at nuclear and missile sites and that US intelligence assesses that the North does not intend to fully denuclearise.

Mr Trump himself has remained upbeat about the outcome of the first summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea. Earlier Thursday, after attending the NATO summit in Brussels, he told reporters that there were clear signs of progress with North Korea, most notably that no missile and nuclear tests have occurred for almost nine months.