Happy Birthday, Trump Tells Kim. Not Enough, North Korea Says.

FILE -- President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, during a bilateral meeting at the Freedom House on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom, June 30, 2019. A senior aide said the North’s leader had “good personal feelings” about Trump, but that did not affect policy. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Choe Sang-Hun

c.2020 The New York Times Company


SEOUL, South Korea —North Korea said on Saturday that President Donald Trump had sent birthday greetings to its leader, Kim Jong Un, but added that the rapport between the two leaders would not help resolve their countries’ nuclear standoff.

Ever since his first summit meeting with Kim, in Ju​ne 2018, Trump has repeatedly flaunted his “good relationship” with the North’s leader, ​ calling Kim “smart” and even going so far as to say that he and Kim “fell in love.”

The two leaders ​have also ​exchanged personal letters and dispatched special envoys to each other’s capitals, ​but talks on how to denuclearize the North remains deadlocked.

On Saturday, Kim Kye Gwan, a senior aide to Kim, confirmed that Trump had sent a personal letter to Kim for his birthday​. (Kim is believed to have turned 36 on Wednesday.​) ​ He also acknowledged that the “personal relations” between Kim and Trump were “not bad,” but said Kim “would not discuss the state affairs on the basis of such personal feelings. ​”

“Although Chairman Kim Jong Un has good personal feelings about President Trump, they are, in the true sense of the word, ‘personal,’” the official said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Chung Eui-yong, ​the n​ational security adviser for President Moon Jae-in of South Korea​, told reporters on Friday that ​Trump ​asked Seoul this past week to relay his birthday greetings to ​​Kim​. But Kim Kye-gwan said that a ​letter from Trump​ had already been delivered to Pyongyang directly from the Americans, ​calling South Korea “presumptuous” for seeking to act as an intermediary between Kim and Trump.

North Korea also hardened its position​ toward Washington on Saturday​, calling the past 1 1/2 years of on-and-off negotiations a “lost time.”

The denuclearization talks collapsed when Kim and Trump met in Vietnam in February 2018 for a second summit meeting and Trump rejected Kim’s offer to dismantle one of the North’s nuclear fuel-production facilities if Washington lifted international sanctions. Trump insisted on a more comprehensive rollback of North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim said recently that he no longer expected the United States to ease sanctions. Instead, he vowed to expand his country’s nuclear force, warning that North Korea ​no longer felt bound by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests.

“There will never be such negotiations as that in Vietnam, in which we proposed exchanging a core nuclear facility of the country for the lift of some U.N. sanctions,” Kim Kye Gwan said Saturday. “We know well about the way we should go and will go on our way.”