SEOUL • North Korea leader Kim Jong Un received a personal letter of "excellent content" from US President Donald Trump, the country's state media said yesterday, amid a nuclear deadlock between Pyongyang and Washington.
Talks have been stalled since the collapse of a second summit between the two leaders in February after they 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 expressed a willingness to meet again, with Mr Trump saying earlier this month that he had received a "beautiful letter" from Mr Kim.
Yesterday, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Mr Trump had written to Mr Kim, who "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 North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried a photo of Mr Kim holding Mr Trump's letter as he read it in his office.
The White House declined to confirm whether Mr Trump had sent a letter to Mr Kim. But South Korea's presidential Blue House said it was aware of the correspondence through its communication with Washington, and described the exchange as positive.
The KCNA report came two days after Mr Kim hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, who wrapped up a highly symbolic visit to the nuclear-armed North Korea last Friday.
Mr Kim told Mr 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 Mr Trump signalled that Pyongyang is ready to break the deadlock with Washington.
"China holds the key to what North Korea wants the most - security guarantee and economic development," said Professor Koh Yu-hwan of 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."
Mr Xi is expected to meet Mr Trump later this week during the Group of 20 summit in Japan, and analysts say the Chinese President intends to use his trip to the North as a way of signalling to Mr Trump his influence with Mr Kim.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore last year - the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president - where the pair signed a vaguely-worded deal on denuclearisation.
But in Hanoi this year, Washington accused Pyongyang of effectively demanding an end to all sanctions for partial disarmament, while North Korea said it wanted some measures eased in return for closing all the nuclear facilities at its Yongbyon complex.
Since then, Pyongyang has accused Washington of acting in "bad faith" and given it until the end of the year to change its approach. The two sides have not held direct talks, while the North raised tensions last month by firing short-range missiles for the first time since November 2017.
Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies said the written correspondence between the leaders was very meaningful. "The letter diplomacy shows they are communicating even though there is a lull in talks."
This is not the first time the two leaders have opted for more traditional means of communication. Less than a month before the Singapore summit, Mr Trump wrote to Mr Kim to call it off, telling the North's leader not to "hesitate to call me or write".
And in September last year, the White House said Mr Kim sent a "very warm" letter to Mr Trump seeking a second summit.