Kim Jong-un pens farewell letter to South Korean leader
Kim Jong-un has thanked outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his “historic” work to improve the relations between the two neighbors.
Moon steps down next month to be replaced by conservative president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has signaled that he will take a tougher line on North Korea.
“Kim Jong-un appreciated the pains and effort taken by Moon Jae-in for the great cause of the nation until the last days of his term of office,” Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday.
The North Korean leader paid tribute to “historic joint declarations giving hope for the future to the entire nation” signed by him and Moon.
“The exchange of the personal letters between the top leaders of the North and the South is an expression of their deep trust,” KCNA said.
Moon has had several high-profile meetings with Kim. In 2018, he became the first South Korean president to visit Pyongyang in more than a decade, and the first leader from Seoul to give a speech to the North Korean public. He also helped to arrange historical meetings between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019.
Moon’s office confirmed the exchange of “letters of friendship” with the North. “The era of confrontation should be overcome with dialogue,” the outgoing president wrote in his farewell message.
The exchange of letters came amid a wave of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, as Pyongyang has tested several missiles in recent months. In March, North Korea announced that it had successfully launched its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-17, capable of reaching the US.
The White House condemned the launch, accusing North Korea of “destabilizing the security situation in the region.” Seoul test-fired its own missile in late March, in an apparent response to the test in the North.
Unlike Moon’s Democratic Party of Korea, Yoon’s People Power Party (PPP) traditionally holds a more hawkish stance towards North Korea. Last month, Yoon described Pyongyang as his country’s “main enemy.”
During Yoon’s election campaign, his adviser Park Jin said that he was seeking to redeploy US submarines and nuclear bombers to the Korea Peninsila, and to “normalize” the US-South Korean military drills, which were scaled back by Yoon’s predecessor.
Several media outlets reported this week that US President Joe Biden was preparing to visit South Korea next month and hold a summit with Yoon.