US President Donald Trump is ready to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May in response to Kim's invitation to hold the first-ever US-North Korea summit, a South Korean envoy said, marking a potentially dramatic breakthrough in the North Korea nuclear standoff.
Not divulging many details about the the timing of talks and any preconditions, Trump tweeted on 10 March saying, “The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined.”
The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 10, 2018
Kim has committed to "denuclearisation" and to suspending nuclear or missile tests, South Korea's National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong told reporters at the White House after briefing Trump on South Korean officials' meeting with Kim on Monday.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping and I spoke at length about the meeting with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. President Xi told me he appreciates that US is working to solve the problem diplomatically rather than going with ominous alternative. China continues to be helpful,” Trump said.
"I told him (Trump) that in our meeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that he’s committed to denuclearisation. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible. US President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve denuclearisation." - Chung Eui-yong, Head of South Korea’s National Security Office
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump "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." - Sarah Sanders, White House Spokesperson
A meeting between Kim and Trump, who have exchanged bellicose insults in the past year that have raised fear of war, would be a major turnaround after a year in which North Korea has carried out a battery of tests aimed at developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
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 efforts on disarmament by the administrations of President Bill Clinton, President George W Bush and President Barack Obama.
Under Clinton in October 2000, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held talks in Pyongyang with the then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un.
On Thursday night Trump took to Twitter with a series of posts putting the potential meeting with Kim in a positive frame.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2018
Tensions over North Korea rose to their highest in years in 2017, and the Trump administration has warned that all options are on the table, including military ones, in dealing with Pyongyang, which has pursued its weapons programs in defiance of even tougher UN sanctions.
Signs of a thaw emerged this year, with North and South Korea resuming talks and North Korea attending the Winter Olympics. During the Pyongyang talks this week, the two Koreas agreed to hold their first summit since 2007 in late April.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said sanctions should not be eased for the sake of talks and that nothing less than denuclearisation of North Korea should be the final goal for talks.
China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, called on the United States and North Korea to hold talks as soon as possible, warning at a news briefing in Beijing on Thursday that things "will not be smooth sailing".
(This story has been edited for length.)
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