President Donald Trump agreed on Thursday to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un by May after Kim pledged to refrain from further nuclear tests and move toward denuclearization, according to South Korean officials.
The surprise announcement was made by South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong in a short statement outside the White House.
Chung said that in recent talks with South Korea, Kim Jong Un “expressed eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.” The South Korean delegation delivered a letter from Kim with the invitation to the White House Thursday, a senior U.S. official told NBC News.
The White House confirmed that Trump would accept Kim’s invitation to meet.
“He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
Prior to the announcement, Trump dropped by the White House press room to hint at the major announcement to come, suggesting that he was supportive.
The South Koreans were at the White House Thursday to brief U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and other top officials on recent talks with the North Korean regime.
No American president has ever met with a North Korean leader, and the meeting comes after months of blustering between the two unpredictable leaders.
Trump has called Kim “little rocket man,” and threatened the country with destruction for its test; Kim has called Trump a “mentally deranged dotard,” and has threatened to rain nuclear fire on the West.
But Chung credited Trump’s “maximum pressure strategy” for forcing Kim to the diplomatic table.
Earlier this week, Pyongyang signaled its willingness to hold talks with Washington on denuclearization, saying it will suspend its nuclear tests while talks are underway.
Asked about the developments earlier this week, Trump expressed optimism, saying he believed overtures from the North Koreans were “sincere,” attributing them to “very, very strong” sanctions and increased pressure from China.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, said in a statement after the announcement that “ICAN commends South Korea’s leadership in achieving history-making dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea, which is the only pathway to nuclear disarmament in the face of fire and fury.”
The statement from Executive Director Beatrice Fihn continued, “We urge both North Korea and the United States to join the majority of countries in pursuing permanent denuclearization through The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
SOURCE: NBC News – ALI VITALI and VIVIAN SALAMA