SEOUL, South Korea: In dangling its nuclear and long-range missiles in exchange for American security and economic benefits, North Korea is pushing the diplomatic envelope like never before. And the envelope is literally huge.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared that his on-and-off summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was on again, the latest shift in a diplomatic theatrics to resolve the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang. The announcement came after Trump hosted a senior North Korean envoy at the White House, who conveyed a personal letter by Kim that was inside a white envelope nearly as large as a folded newspaper. Trump has not yet revealed what was written in the letter, but he sure seemed happy to get it. A photo showed Trump holding up the envelope with a Cheshire cat grin alongside an also smiling Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the White House in 18 years, as they posed in front of a Thomas Jefferson portrait.
The photo made rounds on social media, where theories abound why Kim would have sent Trump what seemed as a comically oversized letter.
Did Kim, a third-generation heredity leader, think Trump would share his love for lavish gestures and things grandiose? After spending months trading insults and war threats with him, has Kim learned that the way to influence Trump is to appeal to his ego — something South Korean President Moon Jae-in seemed to try in April when he openly vouched for Trump as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize?
It’s probably none of those things, or at least, not entirely. The huge letter is just part of meticulous steps taken by North Korea to present Kim as a legitimate international statesman who is reasonable and capable of negotiating solutions and making deals, analysts say.
Following a provocative 2017 in which his engineers tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and long-range missiles that could target American cities, Kim has engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months in what’s seen as an attempt to break out of isolation and obtain sanctions relief to build his economy.
While trying to communicate its willingness to embrace Western diplomatic norms, Pyongyang has put in painstaking efforts to maintain reciprocity with Washington and Seoul, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
Kim Yong Chol’s trip to Washington was clearly a tit-for-tat after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, twice in recent weeks for pre-summit negotiations with Kim. Likewise, Kim’s letter to Trump would have been a reciprocal response to Trump’s own letter to Kim on May 24 that temporarily shelved the highly anticipated meeting, Yang says. Agencies
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