Reading Trump letter in a Chinese way

Trump letter to Kim reveals US inability to handle COVID-19 at home

By Yang Sheng in Beijing and Mang Jiuchen in Pyongyang
Global Times

Lü Chao, a Korean Peninsula expert and research fellow with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences
Lü Chao
US President Donald Trump sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offering assistance in fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, a Chinese expert has noted the gesture was an attempt by Trump to distract domestic pressure and criticism over his administration's inability with handling the pandemic at home and the impact it has had on the US economy.

Trump's letter to Kim included a detailed plan on developing relations, North Korea state media reported, citing Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean leader's sister, but she warned their personal relationship would not be enough, amid a hiatus in disarmament talks, the Associated Press reported.

The statement by Kim Yo Jong, the first vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, carried by the country's official media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Sunday, came a day after nuclear-armed North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday.

"In the letter, he (Trump)... explained his plan to propel the relations between the two countries of the DPRK and the US and expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work," an apparent reference to the coronavirus pandemic, Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.

Lü Chao, a Korean Peninsula expert and research fellow with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times it was funny that Trump offered North Korea assistance in fighting COVID-19. The US has yet to offer concrete help to other countries which are faced with a serious situation, neither to its European allies, Japan, South Korea, nor China, since the outbreak began.

"The US is facing a worse situation with tens of thousands of confirmed cases, but it actively offered 'help' to a country with zero confirmed cases. Isn't that funny? So, what Trump wants is simple - to use North Korea as a distraction from the pressure he has received at home, and to find an opportunity to break the deadlock with Pyongyang," Lü said.

A senior Trump administration official confirmed with the AP that Trump sent a letter to Kim, "consistent with his efforts to engage global leaders during the ongoing pandemic."

"The President looks forward to continued communications with Chairman Kim," the official also said.

While the letter reflects "excellent" ties between the two leaders, Kim Yo Jong warned that broader relations between nations are different.

Global Times found in Pyongyang that people's daily lives have not been impacted much, and foreigners who had been previously quarantined are now allowed to leave the diplomatic zone and visit shopping malls, restaurants, and hotels throughout Pyongyang.

Public transportation has not been affected, but people still wear face masks when they go outside.

Lü said North Korea would not be interested in any so-called "cooperation" on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, as the country can handle the situation by itself. If the US is insincere in canceling sanctions or with any new ideas on denuclearization, Pyongyang won't provide Trump with an opportunity to resume talks."

Pyongyang, which remains under multiple UN sanctions over its weapons program, has repeatedly said amicable ties between the leaders were not enough.

Kim Yo Jong praised Trump's efforts to maintain good relations with her brother but added, "Nobody knows how much personal relations would change and lead the prospective relations between the two countries, and it is not good to make hasty conclusions or be optimistic about it."

If the US continued to pursue its "unilateral and greedy intention," she said, relations between the two countries would continue to deteriorate.

(Global Times - March 23, 2020)

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