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N Korea at crossroads

Kim talked of 'next meeting' in letter to Trump

US ups pressure by reporting North's oil import violations to UN

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk together in Singapore during their June summit   © AP

NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump revealed a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a tweet on Thursday, with Kim calling last month's Singapore summit "the start of a meaningful journey" and touching on the possibility of a follow-up meeting.

The July 6 letter was handed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's delegation in Pyongyang. The president shared it at a time when negotiations appear to be at an impasse. Trump and Pompeo are under pressure to bring home concrete concessions from the North on denuclearization.

Meanwhile, the U.S. this week called on United Nations member states to immediately halt oil exports to North Korea, saying the country has been violating the cap on oil imports through illegal ship-to-ship transfers.

Trump's tweet praised the letter from Kim as "a very nice note" and boasted: "Great progress being made!" The tweet included Korean- and English-language versions of the document.

Kim expressed deep appreciation for "the energetic and extraordinary efforts made by Your Excellency Mr. President for the improvement of relations between the two countries and the faithful implementation of the joint statement."

"I firmly believe that the strong will, sincere efforts and unique approach of myself and Your Excellency Mr. President aimed at opening up a new future between the DPRK and the U.S. will surely come to fruition," Kim continued, using the abbreviation for his country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The letter's optimism contrasts with the statement issued by the North's Ministry of Foreign Affairs later that excoriated the Americans over their "unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization."

The North wants a formal end to the Korean War as the 65th anniversary of the armistice agreement approaches, offering in return to close a missile engine plant and return American soldiers' remains. The State Department said on Thursday that North Korea has offered to meet with an American delegation on Sunday to discuss the repatriation of the remains.

In his letter, Kim wished for his "invariable trust and confidence" in Trump to grow even stronger from future "practical actions" and extended his "conviction that the epochal progress in promoting the DPRK-U.S. relations will bring our next meeting forward."

Trump has stressed the significance of his relationship with Kim in ensuring the success of the talks. In a Monday tweet, he expressed confidence that Kim "will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake."

"We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea," Trump added.

Though Washington's rhetoric may have softened, American-led sanctions on Pyongyang remain intact for now.

The U.S. has submitted to the U.N. Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee a report on violations of a cap on oil exports to the country, citing illegal ship-to-ship transfers involving 89 North Korean tankers from Jan. 1 to May 30, according to a Security Council diplomat. China supplies most of North Korea's crude oil.

The report asserts that the 500,000-barrel annual cap for refined petroleum has been exceeded.

The council has five days to consider the U.S. proposal to stop exporting petroleum. The proposal must not draw objections from any of the 15 Security Council members but could be challenged by China or Russia.

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