US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May, the White House announced today, setting the stage for an unprecedented summit between the two leaders following months of tension over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programme.
In a stunning development, senior South Korean officials announced the news of verbally conveying Kim's invitation to Trump for talks.
The White House said Trump was ready to meet Kim by May, at a time and location yet to be determined.
The announcement came amid months of tension between the two nations
If the meeting takes place it would be the first ever between leaders of the two countries.
Trump himself confirmed the meeting in a tweet, adding that US sanctions would remain in place until a denuclearisation deal was achieved.
"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!," Trump tweeted.
North Korea last year increased the pace of its missile programme. On November 29 last year, the North Korean leader said that his country had achieved full nuclear statehood after what he said was the successful test of a new missile capable of striking anywhere in the United States.
Fears of a catastrophic conflict between the US and North Korea spiked as the leaders of the two nations taunted each other, with the US President Donald Trump calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Rocket Man'.
The two nations had recently threatened to wipe each other out.
Trump's decision to meet Kim, after a year in which the two have repeatedly traded insults, is being seen as a remarkable breakthrough.
Reading from a prepared statement, Chung said the North Korean leader has expressed his "eagerness to meet with President Trump as soon as possible."
Chung attributed the North Korean turnaround to Trump's leadership and his maximum pressure policy together with international solidarity.
In his meeting with the North Korean leader, Chung said Trump is committed to denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
"Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue. He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible," he said.
"President Trump appreciated the briefing, and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May 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 said.
He said South Korea was optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution.
"The Republic of Korea, the United States, and our partners stand together in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions," the South Korean national security adviser said.
Reacting to the announcement White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, "President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined."
She added that the sanctions on the reclusive nation must remain.
"We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain," Sanders said.
According to a senior administration official, Trump may meet the North Korean leader in couple of months.
Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Kim's desire to talk shows sanctions the administration has implemented are starting to work.
"We can pursue more diplomacy, as we keep applying pressure ounce by ounce. Remember, North Korean regimes have repeatedly used talks and empty promises to extract concessions and buy time," he said.
"North Korea uses this to advance its nuclear and missile programs. We've got to break this cycle. The United States and South Korea must stand shoulder-to-shoulder in applying the sustained pressure needed to peacefully end this threat. And Beijing must do its part," Royce said.
Trump spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday agreed to maintain pressure on North Korea till the time it takes tangible steps toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation, the White House said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)