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North Korean leader receives 'excellent' letter from Trump – state media

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un received a personal letter of "excellent content" from US President Donald Trump, the country's state media said Sunday, amid a nuclear deadlock between Pyongyang and Washington.

Talks have been stalled since the collapse of a second summit between Kim and Trump in Hanoi in February after the pair failed to agree on what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.

The two sides have blamed each other for the breakdown, but both leaders have expressed a willingness to meet again, with Trump saying earlier this month that he had received a "beautiful letter" from Kim.

On Sunday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Trump had written to Kim, who had "said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content".

"Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content," KCNA said.

The report gave no further detail about the content of the letter or when it was sent and received.

The front page of the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried a photo of Kim holding Trump's letter with both hands as he read it in his office.

The White House declined to confirm whether Trump had sent a letter to Kim. 

But South Korea's presidential Blue House said it was aware of the correspondence through its communication with Washington.

"The government views it as positive in that the momentum of dialogue between the North and the US is being maintained through top-level letter exchanges," the Blue House said.

'China holds the key'

The KCNA report came just two days after Kim played host to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who wrapped up a highly symbolic visit to the nuclear-armed North on Friday.

Kim told Xi that his visit was an opportunity to demonstrate "the immutability and invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship before the world", KCNA said, using the abbreviation of North Korea's official name.

Analysts say the North's apparently friendly overtures to Trump signalled that Pyongyang was ready to break the deadlock with Washington after Kim's summit with Xi.

"China holds the key to what North Korea wants the most – security guarantee and economic development," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.

"After getting China's promise that it will actively help on these two issues, Kim is reaching out to the US," Koh told Agence France Presse.

Xi is expected to meet Trump later this month in Japan during the G20 summit and analysts say the Chinese president intends to use his trip to the North as a way of signaling to Trump his influence with Kim.

Pyongyang had pulled out all the stops to welcome Xi – the first Chinese president to visit in 14 years – a period in which the North advanced its nuclear programme and developed missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland. – Rappler.com