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With US in Turmoil, Trump Offered to Help N. Korea with Coronavirus

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With US in Turmoil, Trump Offered to Help N. Korea with Coronavirus

2020-03-23 17:42:311 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un (Image source: Screenshot)

 

Inexplicably, Donald Trump sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, offering his help with the Asian country's coronavirus efforts, according to the chairman's sister. She doesn't think it's enough to improve United States-North Korea relations. But the most interesting factor could be that the other country has no confirmed cases yet of COVID-19, while the U.S. has tens of thousands.

 

Trump and Kim have had a contentious relationship. They started out with name-calling on both sides, then met with each other in 2018 and formed what appeared to be a cordial relationship. Trump declared after the meeting that nuclear efforts in North Korea had ended. 

However, intelligence was constantly showing that North Korea may have been working on their nuclear program all along. The two met up again for another summit a year ago, but the U.S. president ended it abruptly. They met up once again on the border of North and South Korea a few months later, as Trump became the first U.S. president to step inside North Korea.

 

Trump also sent birthday greetings to Kim this past January. An adviser to North Korea's foreign ministry, Kim Kye Gwan, said personal exchanges between the two weren't enough to bring Pyongyang to talk about nuclear options again. 

"We view such a personal letter of President Trump as a good example showing the special and firm personal relations with Chairman Kim Jong Un," said his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who is also a senior official, of Trump's coronavirus correspondence.

 

In her statement that was published by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Yo Jong said Trump explained in the letter to her brother of "his plan to propel the relations between the two countries of the DPRK and the U.S.," referencing the country formally by the acronym for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 

Trump also explained "his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work," said the state news agency. It reported that Trump had said he was "impressed by the efforts made by the chairman to defend his people from the serious threat of the epidemic."

 

A senior official with the Trump administration said the letter was "consistent with his efforts to engage global leaders during the ongoing pandemic,' adding that "the president looks forward to continued communications with Chairman Kim." 

Kim Yo Jong warned not to draw "hasty conclusions" from the relationship between Trump and her brother. "I think that the bilateral relations and dialogue for them would be thinkable only when the equilibrium is kept dynamically and morally and justice is ensured between the two countries, not merely by the personal letter between the two leaders."

 

A senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, Duyeon Kim, said Kim Yo Jong's statement was her country's way of saying it still wants a better offer at the negotiating table. 

"North Korea is warning that they won't be fooled by niceties or U.S. tactics and that the U.S. needs to do better," she explained," noting that Kim Jong Un's sister was "making it clear that Pyongyang will continue with nuclear weapons development."

 

It brings the question of why Trump would have made this offer to begin with. The number of people known to be positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. escalates daily, with more than 42,000 cases, more than 500 deaths, and under 300 having officially recovered, as of Monday. With not one single case in North Korea, what did Trump think he could do to help? 

With Duyeon Kim explaining the North Korean response was really stating that they won't be fooled and plan to continue with nuclear options, it seems they were assuming Trump wasn't really looking to aid them with the coronavirus pandemic and was possibly looking for a reason to create another meeting with Kim, possibly so voters would see that as a positive before November.

 

Not so coincidentally, on the day Trump's letter was reported, the state media outlet also said the North Korean leader had launched a successful test of "tactical guided missiles" the day before. 

"The timing almost certainly was carefully calibrated, possibly to underscore North Korea's message that it remains skeptical about the prospects of improved U.S.-DPRK ties," wrote Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst, on a pro-North Korean website.

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