Trump praises ‘beautiful’ letter from Kim as he relaxes nuclear weapons demands

Donald Trump, the US president, has described a personal letter from Kim Jong-un as a “beautiful work of art” and loosened the timeframe on Washington’s demands that the North Korean leader give up his nuclear weapons. 

Mr Trump revealed during a meeting in New York on Wednesday with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, that he had received an “extraordinary” new letter from Kim, who he plans to meet for a second summit in the near future. 

It mirrors an earlier diplomatic overture from Pyongyang, when a senior North Korean official hand delivered a personal message in a giant envelope in June, shortly before the two leaders held their first historic meeting in Singapore. 

“He likes me, I like him, we get along. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters. When I showed one of the letters, just one, to Prime Minister Abe, he said this is actually a ground-breaking letter, this is an incredible, this is a historic letter,” Mr Trump told reporters gathered for the United Nations General Assembly. 

“And it is a historic letter, it’s a beautiful, it’s a beautiful piece of art. And I think we’re going to make a deal. Will we make a deal? I don’t really know. I think we’re going to. In the meantime, and I’ve said it, and I don’t want to bore you, no rockets, no missiles, no nuclear tests for over a year,” he added. 

It wasn’t immediately clear when the letter arrived or what message it contained. Mr Trump met with Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president on Tuesday, and Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, met with his North Korean counterpart earlier on Wednesday. 

In a departure from an earlier policy statement by Mr Pompeo, President Trump said he did not want to “play the time game” with North Korea, adding that he did not want to pin Kim down to a specific deadline for denuclearisation.

“We’re not playing the time game. If it takes two years, three years or five months, doesn’t matter,” he said. 

His statement marks a turnaround from the administration’s earlier tough stance towards North Korea which had caused an impasse in recent months over criticisms that Pyongyang was not disarming quickly enough. 

In a statement last week, Mr Pompeo said the goal was to have a denuclearisation deal by the end of President Trump’s term in January 2021. 

However, on Monday, he revisited that ambitious aim, saying that “to set a date certain would be foolish.”

The secretary of state has been invited to visit Pyongyang for a fourth time and is expected to make the trip next month, when he will prepare plans for a second summit between Kim and Mr Trump.

Mr Pompeo will brief the UN Security Council on Thursday on the fast-moving pace of diplomacy with North Korea, while reminding world powers that it is too early to ease sanctions on the regime. 

He is expected to portray the president’s unconventional approach to diplomacy as the main reason for the dramatic shift in tactics.