Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, center, tours the Esplanade in Singapore. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Kim Wants More Summits With Moon to Tackle Nuclear Issue

(Bloomberg) -- Kim Jong Un is intent on resolving the nuclear impasse that has stalled negotiations with the U.S. and wants to hold more meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Moon’s office said.

The North Korean leader sent Moon a personal letter of well wishes on Sunday, expressing a willingness to meet often in 2019 to advance peace talks and achieve “denuclearization on the Korean peninsula,” Moon spokesman Kim Eui-keum said. Moon thanked him for the letter, tweeting that the North Korean leader “again made clear” that he would act on his agreement with the U.S. and South Korea.

The missive came amid increased skepticism over Kim’s willingness to dismantle his arsenal of nuclear weapons, months after a historic summit with President Donald Trump in which the two leaders agreed to work toward denuclearization. Kim’s letter made no mention of Trump or the U.S.

It was sent days before Kim delivers his annual New Year’s Day speech, which will be examined for signs of whether the U.S. and North Korea will continue with their rapprochement or drift back toward confrontation.

Earlier this month, North Korea told the U.S. that sanctions and pressure won’t work to force Pyongyang into action on its nuclear program. North Korean state media said the removal of the U.S.’s nuclear weapons from the region was a condition of its own disarmament, raising the stakes for Trump’s efforts to hold a second summit with Kim.

Trump on Dec. 25 tweeted a photo of what he called a Christmas Eve briefing with his team to work on North Korea, saying: “Progress being made. Looking forward to my next summit with Chairman Kim!”

Reaffirmed Intentions

Kim and Moon met three times this year, agreeing on steps to decrease military tensions and lay groundwork for economic exchange between their countries. Kim and Trump also agreed to improve relations when they met in June in Singapore. But the U.S. maintains it will keep sanctions in place against North Korea.

In his letter, Kim said his landmark 2018 meetings with Moon -- one in Pyongyang, and two at the truce village of Panmunjom, on the border between North and South -- resulted in “practical and bold measures” to overcome long-standing confrontation and remove fears of war from the peninsula, according to Moon’s spokesman.

Kim also lamented not being able to visit Seoul before the end of the year and reaffirmed his intention to do so while “closely watching the situation,” the spokesman said. Kim had previously promised to be the first North Korean leader to travel to South Korea for a summit, according to Moon’s office.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.