Updated Mar 22, 2020 - World

North Korea claims Trump sent letter to Kim Jong-un offering coronavirus help

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Kim Jong-un's sister said Sunday that President Trump sent a personal letter to the North Korean leader offering cooperation to help the country combat the coronavirus outbreak, according to AP.

Why it matters: Though the North Korean government has yet to report a single case of the new virus within its borders, international experts doubt the claim and fear that an outbreak there would topple the country's poor medical infrastructure and become a humanitarian disaster.

What they're saying: In a statement aired by the Korean Central News Agency, Kim Yo-jong praised Trump for sending the letter when “big difficulties and challenges lie ahead in the way of developing ties” between the countries, according to AP.

  • She said Trump explained that he wanted to “propel the relations between the two countries ... and expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work."
  • “In my personal opinion, I think that the bilateral relations and dialogue for them would be thinkable only when the equilibrium is kept dynamically and morally and justice ensured between the two countries,” she said. “Even at this moment we are working hard to develop and defend ourselves on our own under the cruel environment which the U.S. is keen to ‘provide.’”
  • She said her brother expressed his gratitude for the letter.

A senior administration official confirmed to AP that Trump sent a letter to Kim that was consistent with his outreach to other world leaders during the pandemic.

The big picture: Denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States ground to a halt before the pandemic.

  • North Korea in recent weeks has fired multiple short-range projectiles toward Japan into the East Sea. South Korea’s military called the demonstrations “very inappropriate” when the world is struggling with a pandemic.

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North Korea launches more ballistic missiles into the sea

A woman in Seoul passes a televised broadcast image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, March 21. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea has fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the ocean off its east coast, officials in Japan and South Korea said Sunday morning local time.

The big picture: North Korea has launched a series of missiles since March 2. "In a situation where the entire world is experiencing difficulties due to COVID-19, this kind of military act by North Korea is very inappropriate and we call for an immediate halt," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, per Yonhap news agency.

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North Korea fires several projectiles

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting a farm with members of his military. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea "fired three short-range projectiles into the East Sea" from the country's South Hamgyong province on Monday morning, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, per Yonhap news agency.

Details: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said multiple projectiles were detected to have traveled up to 125 miles before hitting the stretch of water also known as the Sea of Japan and they were likely ballistic, AP reports.

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Trump blasts U.S. Navy captain who sounded alarm about coronavirus

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Saturday said he agreed with the Pentagon's decision to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt after the captain sent a letter to officials pleading for help as members of his crew contracted the coronavirus.

What he's saying: "The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place," Trump said at a White House briefing on Saturday. "That's not appropriate. I don't think that's appropriate. And these are tough people. These are tough, strong people. I thought it looked terrible, to be honest with you."