Trump ready to meet North Korean leader Kim by May

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International desk, Mar 09: 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 U.S.-North Korea summit, a South Korean envoy said, marking a potentially dramatic breakthrough in the North Korea nuclear standoff.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Donald Trump to meet him, an invitation the US leader has said he will accept.

South Korea’s National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, center, and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon, (L), make an announcement about North Korea and the Trump administration outside of the West Wing at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The shock announcement was made by senior South Korean officials in Washington, who passed on a letter from the North Korean leader.

They said Mr Kim had also agreed to halt nuclear and missile tests and was “committed to denuclearisation”.

It appears to be a major breakthrough after months of threats and violence.

The South Korean delegation had held unprecedented talks with Mr Kim in Pyongyang earlier this week, part of a diplomatic thaw following the Winter Olympics in South Korea, then travelled to the US to pass on their message.

Mr Trump, who has previously said there is no point in talking to North Korea, said the development was “great progress”.

But he said sanctions will remain in place until a firm agreement is reached.

Kim has committed to “denuclearization” 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.

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.”

She added: “We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”

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 U.S. mainland.

“I told him (Trump) that in our meeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that he’s committed to denuclearization,” Chung said. “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,” he said. “President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve denuclearization.”

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.

He added: “President Trump appreciated the briefing, and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation.”

North Korea has been isolated on the international stage for decades because of its well-documented human rights abuses and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of international laws.

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Chung Eui-yong who is leading a special delegation of South Korea’s President, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters

No sitting US president has ever sat down for talks with a North Korean leader, so such a meeting would be diplomatically seismic.

Under Clinton in October 2000, then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held talks in Pyongyang with 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 South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” said one post. And Trump added: “Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”

Source: Agencies