Kim Jong Un puts the ball back in Trump’s court with a personal letter that doesn’t back down

President Donald Trump at the White House on May 16.

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President Donald Trump at the White House on May 16.
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REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

  • President Donald Trump is expected to receive a letter from Kim Jong Un on Friday, and it reportedly offers no concessions and merely asks Trump for a meeting.
  • A meeting with Trump would be a huge win for Kim, and insiders say the US and North Korea aren’t close to reaching a deal that would make it worth the US’s time.
  • With the scheduled June 12 summit approaching, Kim’s letter has put the ball back in Trump’s court.

President Donald Trump is expected to receive a letter from Kim Jong Un on Friday as the world anticipates a historic meeting between the two leaders, but an early read of the letter suggests North Korea will stay firm in its recent demeanor.

Though the US is engaged in three separate sets of talks with North Koreans around the globe, it’s still unclear whether Trump will actually meet with Kim.

Kim’s letter, to be delivered by Kim Yong Chol, an infamous and sanctioned North Korean official, could have served as an inflection point in the decision-making process. But according to The Wall Street Journal, it puts the ball back in Trump’s court.

The Journal quoted a foreign government source as saying the letter was “fairly basic.” It said Kim wanted to meet Trump but didn’t make any concessions or threats, as have marked his previous communications.

The US and North Korea remain miles apart on the goal of the summit and what can be achieved.

“The difference of the position between the North and the US in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is still huge,” South Korea’s unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, said on Wednesday, as NK News noted. While Cho said an agreement would “not be impossible” to strike during the talks, the run-up to the scheduled June 12 summit has somewhat devolved into a war of the wills over who more wants the meeting.

Experts agree that a meeting between Kim and Trump would legitimize a pariah nation and grant North Korea a long-term wish. And if the US grants this wish without getting a good deal in return, it could send both parties back to the brink of nuclear war.

Trump first accepted Kim’s offer for a summit in March, without much consultation. But North Korea flipped on the US in May, blasting Trump officials and saying it was reconsidering the summit.

Trump then called the bluff by canceling the summit himself in a letter to Kim, to which North Korea responded with conciliatory statements, saying it would meet the US any time.

But now, as the summit approaches and neither side seems any closer to a deal, Kim’s empty letter has put the ball back in Trump’s court.