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Korean leaders exchange friendly letters in rare break from tensions

SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has exchanged letters with outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in and thanked him for trying to improve relations, state media KCNA reported on Friday (April 22), amid tension over Pyongyang's weapons tests.

Mr Kim and Mr Moon held three summits in 2018 promised peace and reconciliation, but relations have deteriorated in recent years.

Mr Kim and Mr Moon held three summits in 2018 promised peace and reconciliation, but relations have deteriorated in recent years.

SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has exchanged letters with outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in and thanked him for trying to improve relations, state media KCNA reported on Friday (April 22), amid tension over Pyongyang's weapons tests.

The exchange of letters came against a backdrop of strained cross-border ties since a failed North Korea-United States (US) summit in 2019, and flaring tension after Pyongyang launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) last month, breaking a self-imposed 2017 moratorium.

Mr Moon's office confirmed that he had exchanged "letters of friendship" with Mr Kim. Mr Moon sent a letter on Wednesday and promised to continue to try to lay a foundation for unification based on joint declarations reached at summits in 2018, despite the "difficult situation," the official KCNA news agency said.

Mr Kim said in his reply on Thursday that their "historic" summits gave the people "hope for the future", and the two agreed that ties would develop if both sides "make tireless efforts with hope."

"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," KCNA said, adding the exchange of letters was an "expression of their deep trust."

Mr Moon staked his legacy on improving inter-Korean ties and helped arrange unprecedented meetings between Mr Kim and then US President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019.

The three summits held by Mr Kim and Mr Moon in 2018 promised peace and reconciliation, but relations have deteriorated in recent years, with the North warning of destructive action and demolishing facilities built by South Korean firms for joint economic projects.

The two leaders briefly sought to mend ties last year through multiple exchanges of letters, but little progress has been made as Pyongyang criticised Seoul's "double standards" over its weapons development.

Tension sharply escalated after North Korea last month conducted its first full ICBM test since 2017, and there are concerns that Pyongyang is preparing to restart nuclear testing.

South Korean and US troops began annual joint military exercises this week, and North Korea routinely denounces such drills as rehearsals for war. REUTERS

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Korea denuclearisation nuclear weapons

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