President Trump has agreed to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong Un after getting an invitation Thursday, South Korean officials announced in front of the White House Thursday.
Chung Eui-Yong, South Korea’s national security advisor, told reporters that the North Korean leader has “expressed his eagerness” to meet with Trump, and that he has also said he is “committed to denuclearization.”
“Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests,” Chung said. “He understands that the routine joint military exercises in the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.”
Chung said Trump wanted to meet by May, and the president later confirmed on Twitter that a meeting is being planned. Trump also said “great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached.”
Chung added during his announcement that Trump said he wanted to meet to “achieve permanent denuclearization.”
“The Republic of Korea along with the United States, Japan, and our many partners around the world remain fully and resolutely committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Chung continued.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that Trump planned meet Kim “at a place and time to be determined.”
“We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea,” she added. “In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
The announcement came shortly after a South Korean delegation visited the White House Thursday to update US officials on the status of discussions with North Korea. Following that meeting, Trump teased the North Korea news when he popped into the White House briefing room and told reporters to expect a major announcement.
He also reportedly told one journalist that “hopefully, you will give me credit” for the news.
A senior administration official, in a background call with reporters, said that in his year in office, Trump has “always left the door open to dialogue of some kind, he’s left the door open to dialogue at the right time.”
The invitation to meet, the official said, was conveyed in the Oval Office during a meeting that included Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Deputy CIA Director Gina Haskell. In that meeting, Chung conveyed a message that Kim had provided orally during meetings last week.
“Look, at this point we’re not even talking about negotiations,” the senior administration official said when asked about possible terms the United States would seek in talks with Pyongyang. “We’re talking about an invitation from the leader of North Korea to meet face to face with the POTUS. The president has accepted that invitation.”
The official also noted that Trump spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday night about the decision.
North Korea and the US have had an antagonistic relationship for decades, but tensions have soared more recently amid multiple ballistic missile tests. North Korea claimed one of those missiles could reach the entire US mainland.
However, earlier this week North Korea indicated it was willing give up its nuclear weapons program and hold talks with the US in exchange for security guarantees. North Korea also signaled a willingness to begin a dialogue with the US after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Trump responded by saying that he was willing to speak with Pyongyang, but “only under the right conditions.” In the past, Trump has said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting” his time with North Korea, and referred to Kim as “rocket man.”