Trump to meet Kim Jong-un after pledge to halt missile and nuclear tests
US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by May, in a remarkable turnaround in relations between the two adversaries.
- South Korea says Kim Jong-un expressed "eagerness" to meet Donald Trump
- US officials wary of North Korean commitments given history of reneging
- A South Korean delegation met Mr Kim earlier this week
The invitation for Mr Trump to meet with the leader of the rogue state came through South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong.
Mr Chung briefed Mr Trump and other top US officials about rare talks South Korean officials had held with Mr Kim in the North Koran capital of Pyongyang on Monday.
Mr Chung confirmed to reporters outside the White House of the planned meeting between the US and North Korea.
"[Mr Kim] expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible," he said.
Mr Chung also announced that Mr Kim had committed to stopping North Korea's nuclear and missile testing.
"President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation."
But Mr Chung said pressure would continue on North Korea until it matched its words with concrete action.
He also said Mr Kim "understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue".
The offer from Mr Kim to meet the US President is a shift in North Korea's usual sentiment of the US as war-mongering capitalist country.
The offer is especially surprising considering that, in the last year, North Korea has threatened to target the US mainland with its rockets after Mr Trump called Mr Kim "Mr Evil President" and "Little Rocket Man".
A meeting between the two leaders would mark a dramatic breakthrough in efforts to resolve the tense stand-off over North Korea's efforts to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US.
Meeting won't ease sanctions pressure
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Mr Trump would accept the invitation to meet Mr Kim at a place and time to be determined.
External Link: Donald Trump tweet: Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!
"President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon," Ms Sanders said in a statement.
"He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined.
"We look forward to the denuclearisation of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain."
Mr Trump said in a tweet that a meeting was being planned but reiterated that sanctions would remain in place in for the time being.
A senior Trump administration official said they were only "talking about negotiations at this stage" and the President did not want to "reward North Korea for talks".
"President Trump was elected because he is willing to take approaches different from past presidents and that couldn't me more clear than on North Korea policy," he said, adding Mr Trump had "a reputation for making deals".
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he welcomed the "change in North Korea's stance", but agreed pressure on the country needed to continue.
Victor Gao, a Chinese international relations expert and former top government translator, said the meeting was a result the Chinese Government had been promoting for some time.
"Today I think Chinese leaders could happily say that progress has been made," he said, even floating the idea that China could play host to the meeting.
"From Beijing's perspective, I think the Chinese leaders would be very happy to do whatever they can to provide facilitation for a meeting."
Mr Trump's aides have been wary of North Korea's diplomatic overtures because of its history of reneging on international commitments and the failure of disarmament efforts by the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama.
Mr Chung and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon flew to Washington earlier on Thursday to explain North Korea's stance on possible future talks with Washington and the prospect of Pyongyang suspending nuclear tests if the security of the North's Government was assured.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said though "talks about talks" might be possible with Pyongyang, denuclearisation negotiations were likely to be a long way off.
Seoul has already publicised that North Korea offered talks with the United States on denuclearisation and normalising ties, a potential diplomatic opening after a year of escalating tensions over the North's nuclear and missile tests.
Both the North and South also notably put their differences aside to present a joint Korean team at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.