By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's recent "get-well wish" note to U.S. President Donald Trump may be a "good sign" for progress down the road, a senior U.S. diplomat said Thursday, noting the message marked the first of its kind in nearly two decades.
Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, also urged North Korea to return to the dialogue table, saying his country remains open and committed to the 2018 denuclearization agreement the countries signed.
"It's a good sign, I suppose, that Chairman Kim is watching and expressing concern about our leader," Knapper said of Kim's letter to Trump.
In his letter, dated Oct. 2, Kim offered his "sympathy to the president (Trump) and the first lady. He sincerely hoped that they would be recovered as soon as possible," according to an earlier report by the North's Korean Central News Agency.
The letter came one day after the U.S. first couple was diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
Knapper noted the letter marked the first of its kind in 19 years.
"The last time the North Koreans publicly expressed sympathy towards the United States was 911. So, it has been 19 years since we have had that kind of, you know, public expression of sympathy," he told a webinar hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Knapper's remark comes amid a deadlock in denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea.
Trump and Kim have exchanged more than two dozen letters since their historic first summit in 2018. They have held three meetings, including two bilateral summits held in June 2018 and February 2019, but their talks have stalled since their second summit in Hanoi ended without progress.
The U.S. diplomat said his country remains committed to the spirit of the countries' denuclearization agreement that came at the end of their first bilateral summit, but that it will maintain its pressure against the communist state until Pyongyang denuclearizes.
"We have continued to maintain and state publicly...that we remain open to dialogue, remain open to a diplomatic solution, that we continue to hope to actualize, you know, the spirit of the Singapore statement," Knapper said.
"And at the same time, until North Korea responds to the will of the international community and addresses its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the pressure campaign will continue," he added.
Victor Cha, head of the Korea Chair at CSIS and former director for Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, said Trump, if reelected, will "right away" hold another summit with the North Korean leader and possibly reach a deal, citing an unnamed source close to Trump.
"The reason he will do that is because, one, Trump as an individual doesn't like loose ends and this is a loose end, and two, this person said, Trump went all in on North Korea. Like there is no other issue where he personally went all in on in his first term," Cha told the virtual seminar.
Meanwhile, Knapper said the U.S. was continuing to "positively" consider launching a new alliance dialogue with South Korea, which was proposed by South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun during his trip here last month.
Choi earlier said the allies have agreed to launch a new director-level alliance dialogue.
"We are continuing to look at it positively. (We) have not decided either way, but I think it is safe to say that conversations at various levels between our two countries are always welcome," said Knapper.
"But we are still looking at it and, you know, (we) need to figure out sort of how it would fit in among the other dialogues we have going on," he added.
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