North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent a letter expressing hope for South Korea to overcome a coronavirus outbreak, President Moon Jae-in’s office says, as the South battles the biggest epidemic of the disease outside China.

The two sides’ exchanges have ground nearly to a halt after the North closed borders and temporarily shut a joint liaison office in a border city to avert an outbreak, while the South added 760 new coronavirus cases on Thursday for a total of 6,088.

In the letter delivered on Wednesday, Kim voiced concern over Moon’s health, and expounded what he described as his “honest view and position” regarding the situation on the Korean peninsula, Moon’s office said, without elaborating.

“Chairman Kim wished to console our citizens who are fighting the coronavirus,” Yoon Do-han, Moon’s senior press secretary, told reporters on Thursday.

“He said he believes we will win, and hoped the health of southern compatriots will be protected.”

Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un at the Inter-Korean Summit 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during the Inter-Korean Summit April 27, 2018


Moon responded with a letter of thanks, Yoon said.

The rare message came less than two days after Kim’s sister, Yo Jong, issued a statement attacking Moon’s office for criticising a military drill by the North.

North Korea had resumed missile testing on Monday after a three-month pause, prompting Moon’s office to urge a halt.