Moon and Kim exchange letters, reminiscing and expressing hope
Kim received a "personal letter" from Moon Wednesday and sent a reply the next day, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), describing the exchange as "an expression of their deep trust."
"Sharing the same view that the inter-Korean relations would improve and develop as desired and anticipated by the nation if the north and the south make tireless efforts with hope, the top leaders mutually extended warm greetings to the compatriots in the north and the south," said the KCNA in an English-language report.
Referring to the "historic joint declarations giving hope for the future to the entire nation," Kim said he "appreciated the pains and effort" taken by Moon "until the last days of his term," the KCNA added.
Moon's five-year term ends on May 9.
It said they "exchanged best regards" and that Moon noted the efforts made by the two leaders for peace on the Korean Peninsula and inter-Korean cooperation.
Moon "expressed the will to make the north-south joint declarations the foundation for the reunification even after his retirement," it added.
The Blue House in a press briefing later Friday morning confirmed the letter exchange.
Park Kyung-mee, the Blue House spokesperson, said that Moon conveyed that "the era of confrontation should be overcome through dialogue."
She added that in his letter, Moon expressed regret that inter-Korean dialogue did not achieve the desired goals, but added, "Although moments of regret are mixed with overwhelming memories, I believe that in holding hands with Chairman Kim, we have taken a sure step that will change the fate of the Korean Peninsula."
Moon relayed his hopes that North Korea-U.S. dialogue will resume "as soon as possible," she said.
"It is up to the next government to resume dialogue," Moon wrote, referring to the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration. He expressed his hopes that Kim will also "engage in inter-Korean dialogue for the sake of peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Moon conveyed in the letter that he expects the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Declaration, signed by the two leaders during inter-Korean summits in 2018, would be the "foundation for unification," Park said.
She said that Kim in his reply sent Thursday likewise expressed regrets but recongized the two sides made "an indelible achievement" through their "historic agreements and declarations."
Kim was said to have underscored that it is his "unwavering belief that inter-Korean relations can develop as much as possible if the South and North give their sincerity based on efforts made so far."
Moon and Kim held three rounds of summits in 2018. They first met at the truce village of Panmunjom at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on April 27, 2018, and signed the Panmunjom Declaration, which called for an improvement in inter-Korean relations and reduced military tensions.
The two leaders met again the following month at the Panmunjom on May 16, ahead of Kim's first summit with former President Donald Trump in June. They held a third summit in Pyongyang from Sept. 18 to 20, 2018, and signed the Pyongyang Declaration to further advance exchanges and cooperation and pursue the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Moon, Kim and Trump met on June 30, 2019, at the DMZ following the collapse of the North-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February that year, which led to an impasse in denuclearization negotiations.
Pyongyang has conducted a series of missile tests in recent weeks. On March 24, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), ending its self-imposed moratorium on longer-range launches and nuclear tests, which began in late 2017.
The two leaders have exchanged personal letters dating back to leader Kim's letter requesting Moon to visit Pyongyang. It was delivered through Kim Yo-jong, his younger sister, who visited the South in February 2018 ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Despite a standstill in inter-Korean dialogue after the Hanoi summit, the two sides continued to communicate through letters, including an exchange in April last year, which led to the two sides restoring severed cross-border hotlines that July.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]