President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Kim Jong Un offering help dealing with a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday.
The White House confirmed that the president sent a letter, but would not reveal its contents.
But an unnamed senior administration official told The New York Times and Agence France Presse that the letter was “consistent” with Trump’s “efforts to engage global leaders during the ongoing pandemic.”
North Korean policy aide Kim Yo Jong, who is Kim’s younger sister, said in a statement carried by the news agency: “We regard it as a good judgment and proper action for the U.S. president to make efforts to keep the good relations he had with our Chairman.”
She said that Trump reaffirmed his intention to promote good relations between the nations, and “expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work.” The president said he was “impressed by the efforts made by the Chairman to defend his people from the serious threat of the epidemic,” the statement added.
Kim had “mentioned his special personal relations with President Trump again and appreciated the personal letter,” said his sister. But his sister suggested that the leaders’ personal relationship may not be sufficient to promote better ties between the nations.
Talks between the nations have stalled over the past year after a failed summit in Vietnam last February to address the country’s nuclear ambitions. Kim has since pledged to jump-start the weapons program, saying in January that North Korea was no longer bound by a moratorium on testing.
On Saturday, Kim witnessed the launch of what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles from the country’s east coast into the sea.
Pyongyang has insisted there have been no coronavirus cases in the nation. But international officials suspect North Korea may be hiding the truth, and fear a major outbreak in a nation with a struggling public health system.
U.S. critics would likely prefer Trump focus on helping the U.S. His administration has come under fire for serious delays in rolling out COVID-19 testing and failing to adequately address a supply shortage of ventilators for patients and protective gear, including face masks, for health care professionals.