WASHINGTON ― U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent him a “very beautiful” letter complaining about ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
At an impromptu news conference, Trump gave Kim a pass for North Korea’s recent tests of short-range missiles, suggesting that he and Kim could meet again in the future. Pyongyang has said the tests were warnings against the exercises.
Trump called the letter, which was hand-delivered to him Thursday, “very positive,” adding" “I think we’ll have another meeting.” Trump has disputed criticism his three meetings with Kim over the last year have yielded little progress to resolve the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“I say it again: There have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short ranged ― no ballistic missile test. No long-range missiles," Trump said Friday.
He also expressed sympathy with North Korea’s objections to U.S.-South Korean military exercises ― which are focused on joint command, control and communication.
“[Kim] wasn’t happy with the war games with the United States, and I’ve never liked it either. You know why? Because we’re paying for it; we should be reimbursed for it,” Trump said.
Trump said in a series of tweets on Wednesday that “talks have begun” for Seoul to pay the U.S. more for its defense against North Korea, though South Korean officials said the discussions had not yet started.
Trump’s comments Friday came amid Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s weeklong trip through the Pacific region and hours after Esper held a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, to reaffirm their commitment to a robust alliance and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Earlier in the week, Esper said there were no plans to scale back future exercises and declined to rule out canceling them.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.