Kim Jong Un sends rare letter to South Korean leader after extraordinary year

The letter sent from Kim Jong Un to Moon Jae-in
CNN  — 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a rare personal letter to his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, expressing his willingness to meet again in 2019 and discuss denuclearization on the divided peninsula.

Wrapping up an extraordinary year in which the two leaders met three times, Kim shared his wish to go together towards peace and prosperity, according to Moon’s office.

Kim added that he was sorry his plan to visit Seoul later this year – in what was to be their fourth meeting of 2018 – did not take place as agreed at their third summit in Pyongyang in September.

But he expressed a strong will to visit the South Korean capital in the future.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in  embrace at a summit in South Korea in April.

In response, Moon said on his social media account that he was “very glad” to see Kim’s “willingness to meet often in the new year to resolve the practical issues of peace and prosperity and the denuclearization issue.”

“If we meet together with sincerity, there is nothing we cannot achieve,” added Moon. “It took a long time to get here and much has changed in one year.”

The South Korean President said he hoped to see Kim in the new year, and that his welcome to the country “remains unchanged.”

Historic 2018 for Koreas

It marks the end of a historic year in North-South relations, with the leaders hugging each other on the tarmac of Pyongyang International Airport in their most recent meeting in September – believed to be the first time Kim had greeted visitors at the airport since taking power in 2011.

It was also the first time since 2007 that a South Korean president had traveled North.

Though fighting ended 65 years ago, the Korean War has never been formally ended with a peace treaty.

While a formal peace regime officially ending the Korean War would need buy in from the US and China – the other participants in the conflict – experts agree that there is nothing to stop the two Koreas declaring an end to the war themselves, or signing a bilateral peace treaty.

The meetings followed a rollercoaster few years of relations between US President Donald Trump and Kim – nosediving with Trump’s famous “Rocket man” speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2017, and peaking with their highly anticipated summit in Singapore earlier this year.

It was the first-ever summit between the sitting leaders of the two countries. Trump hailed the new friendship and a document signed by both parties reaffirming Kim’s “unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization.”

As 2018 draws to a close, Kim has again vowed to resolve the denuclearization issue in his letter to Moon – but visible steps showing North Korea has indeed stopped developing its nuclear arsenal remain to be seen.

CNN’s Jake Kwok reported, Sheena McKenzie wrote in London. Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.